This herb has graced gardens since the days of ancient Athens and Rome. Native to the Mediterranean region and Asia, dill bears feathery foliage, umbels of yellow flowers, and aromatic seeds. Romans in the 1st century considered the plant a symbol of good fortune. They crowned returning war heroes with fragrant garlands of dill and hung wreaths of dill blossoms in their banquet halls. In the Middle Ages, magicians used dill in spells and charms against witchcraft, as well as in love potions and aphrodisiacs.
Common Name: Dill
Description: Upright stems, up to 2 to 3 feet tall, topped by yellow-green umbels up to 6 inches across; feathery, bipinnate leaves; flat, ribbed seeds; aromatic
Flowering: July through September
Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, and seeds
Range/Habitat: Native to the Mediterranean and southern Russia; naturalized in North America
Dill has a distinctive, tangy flavor. The leaves, known as dillweed, and the stronger flavored flowers and seeds can be used fresh or dried. Fresh dill leaves pair well with eggs, seafood, salads, and vegetables.
Both dill seed and dill seed oil have long histories of use in Western and traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of flatulence, particularly in children. The seeds and leaves contain a volatile oil that acts as a digestive aid, relieving intestinal gas and calming the digestive tract. Dill also retards the growth of E. coli, a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections. Chewing dill seeds is believed to alleviate bad breath. Dill seed and leaf teas have been given to nursing mothers to increase milk production, and babies have been given the tea, called “gripe water,” to relieve colic.
The flower umbels of dill are a favorite food of beneficial insects, such as lacewings, ladybugs, and hoverflies, which help control aphids and other insect pests. Encourage these insect helpers by interplanting dill with food crops and flowers.
How to grow it
Dill grows best in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in full sun. Sow the seeds directly in the garden in spring, after danger of frost has passed; transplanting isn’t always successful due to the herb’s single taproot. For a steady supply of fresh leaves and flowers, reseed every 3 weeks until midsummer. Begin snipping leaves when the plants are well established, cutting off sprigs where they meet the main stem. Harvest seeds when they turn light brown, 2 to 3 weeks after blossoming. Fresh leaves will maintain their quality for about 3 days in the refrigerator. Leaves and seeds can be dried in a warm, dark location and stored in an airtight container.