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Dill has long been cultivated as a herb throughout Europe and north Africa as well as in its native Asia. It was used by Egyptian doctors 5000 years ago and traces have been found in Roman ruins in Great Britain. In the Middle Ages it was thought to protect against witchcraft .
In Semitic languages it is known by the name of Shubit. The Talmud requires that tithes shall paid on the seeds, leaves, and stem of dill. The Bible reports that the Pharisees were in the habit of paying this tithe; Jesus rebuked them for tithing dill but omitting mercy.
The name dill is thought to have originated from a Norse or Anglo-Saxon word 'dylle' meaning to soothe or lull, the plant having the carminative property of allaying pain.
Like caraway, its fernlike leaves are aromatic, and are used to flavour many foods, such as gravad laks (pickled salmon), borscht and other soups and pickles. The seeds are also used to flavour pickles. Dill leaves must be used fresh, as they lose their flavour rapidly if dried; even freeze-dried dill leaves have very little flavour. It is thus necessary to grow a supply of plants, rather than store the leaves.
Successful cultivation requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; even partial shade will reduce the yield substantially. It also prefers rich, well drained soil. The seeds are viable for 3-10 years. Plants intended for seed for further planting should not be grown near fennel, as the two species can hybridise.
The seed is harvested by cutting the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. The seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag and left in a warm dry place for a week. The seeds then separate from the stems easily for storage in an airtight container.
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