Dill is deceptively like fennel, but when you bruise dill and smell it, it has a much more delicate aroma.
It hails from western Asia but is now widely cultivated and also often found growing wild in Northern Europe, the UK, North America and Australia.
It is a slender plant with blue-green threadlike leaves with small deep-yellow flowers on umbels (flat saucer heads) that can reach 15cm across.
Dill likes to be in a sunny position, protected from the winds in well-drained soil. Sow seeds where they are to grow and thin out to 25-30 cm apart. Plant quite a lot of dill together to support each other. Keep them well watered. Sow seeds in different places in the garden to establish where they grow best. Once happy in their home, they will self-seed with abandon. The established plants are quite drought resistant.
Sow seeds every two weeks to make sure of a continuous crop.
If you want to harvest the leaves regularly, nip off the flower buds as they appear, leaving the plant more energy to develop more leaves.
Dill does not do well in pots and will most likely not develop seed heads. It does not like being transplanted.
Do not plant dill and fennel near each other as they will cross-pollinate and the resulting plants will not taste of one or the other.
The attractive, ornamental flowers can be picked for the vase.
Harvest the seeds when they start turning brown. Put the flower heads upside down into brown paper bags until they are ripe. Shake the seeds off into the bag.
Smelling faintly of caraway, dill seeds are aromatic and warming and can be used instead of caraway seeds in vegetable dishes like cabbage and cauliflower. The seeds are often used in the pickling world – especially with cucumbers - and in chutneys, with fish, soups and sauces. Dill is widely used in Scandinavian cuisine.
The seeds are also good with root vegetables, cakes and sweets.
A tea made from a tsp. of lightly crushed seeds steeped for five minutes in a cup of boiling water, then strained, is a wonderful remedy for colic and flatulence. Breastfeeding mothers could do well to drink a couple of cups a day or chew on some seeds. The calming effect on the digestive system will get to the baby via the mother’s milk.
Dill and Carrot Soup
1 large onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato/potato, chopped
3 large carrots
1 litre of good chicken or vegetable stock
185 ml sour cream
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill
Melt the butter; soften onion, sweet potato
and carrots for five minutes.
Stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat and set aside
to cool slightly.
Blend or process the soup in a blender
or food processor until smooth.
Add the sour cream.
Return soup to a clean saucepan and cook
over a low heat to prevent it from curdling.
Stir in the chopped dill and garnish
with a dill sprig.