Dill is a popular herb, well known for providing an aromatic taste to pickles. Dill herb is also used in vinegar, salads, fish and other dishes as well. If you are wondering how to cut fresh Dill from plants, you need all the information you can get. Fresh Dill can’t be simply picked from its plant as it needs to be cut properly.
The Proper procedure ensures that the aroma and the flavours of the Dill remain intact. This includes knowing the right time to do so, the material you need and what to do. If you fail to cut the feathery leaves off, you might end up destroying the real flavour.
- What Do You Need?
- Cutting the Fresh Dill
- Getting Ready
- All about the herb Dill
- Tips for Growing Dill in the Garden
- Companion planting with dill
- Growing dill indoors
- When to harvest dill
- Recipes using fresh dill
- How to freeze and dry fresh dill
- My dill won’t stand up!
- All About Growing Dill – Planting, Pruning, & Harvesting
- How to Grow Dill
- How to Prune Dill
- How to Harvest Dill
- How to Dry Dill
- Culinary Uses for Dill & Recipes
- Dill vs. Fennel
- Want farm-fresh fruit?
What Do You Need?
You need to preserve the Dill weed because it loses its flavour over time. Here is what you might need for properly cutting and storing the Dill weed:
- Water (Dill to be watered before harvesting)
- Sharp pair of scissors
- Snipping tool like kukri
Or, if you have been gardening, you can use the normal sized shears as well, which would work just fine.
Cut Fresh Dill from the Plant
For drying and preserving the leaves, you would need:
- Paper towel
- Airtight container
- Ice tray
Cutting the Fresh Dill
The first step in cutting fresh dill weed from the plant is to know the right time to do so. Dill is an annual plant, but its leaves can be harvested in any season. Just make sure that the plant has at least 4-5 leaves. It is said that harvesting of Dill leaves should be done when flowers bloom.
It is also believed that best time to do so is when leaves are pale green, still in young. But it is the older leaves that give the flavour and are called Dill weed.
Before harvesting the Dill weed, water it the day before. Make sure that the leaves are cleaned properly. Watering hydrates the weed, gives it more flavour and freshness. Moreover, it reduces a step in the pickling procedure. Try not to water the plant immediately before harvesting. Excess moisture in the plant or leaves can lead to wilting. Similarly, avoid watering the plant after the procedure as well.
The best time to cut the leaves is in the morning. You can remove the fresh leaves from the stem with a pair of sharp and clean shears, scissors or kukri. The leaves can also be removed by hands. Here is how to do it-
Cutting the Leaves
Cut the leaves off where they join the stem, preferably when the Dill plant is over eight weeks old and has numerous leaves on it. You need to cut the leaves carefully, without harming the main stalk. While snipping, you can cut more than two-thirds of the leaves and leave the rest.
The leaves should not be removed completely. You need to leave some of them still on the main stem if you’d like to see it grow once again. For this, the stalk of the plant should be intact. There is another way you can do it.
Apart from cutting the leaves separately, you can instead go for cutting the entire stalk as well. You would need the best kukri machete to cut the stalk 3 inches above the ground. Don’t worry; you will have it re-grown soon enough. This time, you will have the leaves and not the flowers, though.
A word of caution- Do not pluck or prune all the leaves at once. You still need at least 20% of the leaves back on the main stalk. Removing all the leaves at the same time will eventually cause the Dill plant to die or lose its growth ability.
Even though the whole stalk can be removed as well, it is not preferred because the plant takes a lot of time to grow itself back. We recommend that you harvest the leaves on a regular basis. This will allow you to keep the seeds and not allow pollination to take place. The more regularly you harvest or cut the leaves, the better flavour you get at the earliest. The seeds can later be used as seasonings or for growing more Dill.
Gently use the shears or pair of scissors to snip the flower head off. You would need to cut it as soon as the flower begins to open. This is to ensure that the flower is unable to pollinate or set seed. If you do not cut the flower off, the plant production stops after seeds set. As the production declines, so does the overall flavour and effect of the Dill leaves.
Make sure that when you cut leaves, you remove the foliage (dead). The dead foliage should be pruned during the growing season. Do not simply snip it off from the top. Instead, cut the dead foliage completely, from where it joins the healthy stem.
Cut the Leaves Separately
Now once the Dill has been cut, do not water immediately after. However, follow a regular watering routine. The pruned Dill should be watered by you at least twice weekly. You need to fill at most 1 inch of water each time so that the soil beneath half a foot is watered as well. Any re-growing foliage or flowers should also be watered regularly.
You need to use the Dill leaves fresh to ensure appropriate flavour. The exquisite aroma and flavours vanish over the time on exposure to air and moisture. But it is not always viable to get fresh Dill leaves. So we recommend you immediately store and preserve your harvest of fresh Dill leaves by any of the suitable methods-
Simply allow sunlight and air to dry the Dill leaves for a few minutes. Or, you can put them in the microwave by using a paper towel. Run the microwave for two-three minutes on high and immediately store the leaves in an airtight container. Make sure that the leaves have completely dried and are crumbling. Storing them with moisture content can destroy the flavour.
As temperature and moisture can cause the flavour to vanish, you can freeze the Dill leaves as well. Even though it is moisture, you get no exposure to air. You can freeze the Dill leaves by keeping them in a plastic zip bag to be frozen. You can also place Dill leaves in an ice tray and freeze the ice cubes. While preparing dish or pickles, you can simply add the frozen Dill leaf with all the flavour still intact.
We recommend freezing for preservation. You get the flavour to last much longer with freezing.
And that’s how to cut fresh Dill from the plant and preserve it. With this procedure, you will be able to preserve the flavor of the Dill for long. You can take them out for use in pickles, salads or as garnish anytime. All you need to ensure is that each step is followed with necessary care.
So let us know what you think of the procedure or if you have a better way to do so. Even though Dills can be handpicked, we prefer recommending tools for precision. Whether you use fresh Dill or preserve, it is surely worth an addition to your garden. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on planting Dill and harvesting them.
Fresh dill is a very popular kitchen herb. It is highly aromatic and really easy to grow. The flavor dried dill just can’t compete with that of the fresh herb. Let’s check out some tips for growing dill.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is native to the Southwestern part of Asia. The herb is harvested for its leaves, which are commonly used in recipes that feature fish, and also in soups and salads. The seeds of dill are also used for adding flavor and for pickling.
Fresh herbs are something that I grow year round, both indoors and outside, either in pots or in my garden bed. I use them daily for cooking and love the flavor that fresh dill brings to recipes.
There are dozens of herbs and many of them have a similar look. (Dill and fennel look quite alike.) If you need help with the identification of herbs, check out this article for some help.
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This article will take you through the process of growing dill, as well as giving tips for using the fresh herb in recipes, and for drying and freezing it for use later.
All about the herb Dill
If you enjoy rich flavors from herbs that have good health benefits, dill is one for you to try.
Heath benefits of dill
The herb dill on Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1550 BC. Turns out they used it for anti-flatulence and constipation! Roman gladiators are known to have rubbed dill oil on their skin to speed up healing of burns.
The first European settlers brought the plant with them to North America. The plant is said to have benefits in the relief of many ailmnents from heartburn to depression.
Dill is high in calcium which promotes strong bones. It is thought to increase milk production in lactating mothers and is also used to treat menstrual disorders.
For more information on the healing side of dill, check out this article.
Is dill an annual or a perennial?
Fresh herbs can be either annuals or perennials. In the case of dill, it is neither! Dill is a tender biennial. It is a warm season herb and is quite sensitive to frost or even light freezes, so most of us will grow it an an annual.
Dill plants do self seed, however, so it is likely that you will see it growing the following year like a perennial does.
What does dill taste like?
The fine leaves of fresh dill have a very delicate, slightly tangy flavor. The herb is most often used fresh to preserve its flavor, since dried dill does lose some of its flavor.
The taste of dill pairs well with hearty foods, pickles (of course), grains and seafood. It adds an aromatic touch to salad dressings and marinades, and pairs well with lemon and eggs.
Tips for Growing Dill in the Garden
Every part of dill from the stems, to the leaves, flowers and seeds are edible. With so many uses in cooking, from pickles to fish, it is a good idea to have some growing in your garden.
Dill is a forgiving plant. It needs full sunlight but other than this, it will grow in poor to good soil and under dry and wet conditions. Here are a few tips for growing dill to help you get the most out of your plants.
It is possible to find dill seedlings, but dill is not fond of being transplanted, so planting from seeds is preferable. The seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. The seeds germinate and grow best in the spring rather than the hotter months of the summer.
After the last frost, when the soil is between 60 and 70 º F, plant seeds 1/4″ deep and space about 18 inches apart (smaller varieties can be planted a bit closer, but dill is quite a large plant so it needs room to grow.)
Shelter young plants from heavy winds. As the plants grow larger, they may need to be staked.
Note: if you plan to use dill for pickling, try planting seeds every few weeks until the middle of the summer so that you will have a continuous supply.
Water and sunlight requirements for dill
Being native to Southwest Asia, dill is a sun loving plant that enjoys a warm growing season. This does not mean hot though. Dill, like cilantro will easily go to flower in the hottest months. When planting try to place it in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.
If you live in a hotter climate, try planting dill in a shadier spot. You might find that you get better results. Succession planting every few weeks will also give you the fresh herb before it sets seed.
Water the plants consistently during the warmest part of the summer but generally dill does not need a lot of watering. If the soil near the plants remains undisturbed during the growing season, the self seeding nature of the plant will ensure new plants next year.
Growth Habit and Leaves and Flowers
Dill has a thin tap root with stems that will grow to over 3 feet in height. It bears very fine and feathery looking leaves all around the stalks of the plant.
The seeds of the flower are also used as a spice, because (like the rest of the plant) they contain essential oils. The herb has umbrella like clusters of small yellow flowers that can be up to 6″ wide.
Diseases and pests
The plant is not bothered by too many things. Carrot redleaf motley can be a problem which is why dill should not be planted near carrot plants. Leaf blight, downy mildew and damping off can sometimes also affect the plant. Rotating crops, not overcrowding and avoiding excess fertilization can help with these problems.
Dill has a tendency to attract both ladybugs and lacewings. Both of these like to eat aphids, so planting dill near some herbs and vegetables can act as a natural pesticide.
Companion planting with dill
Companion plants are those that are beneficial to another plant when grown nearby. In the case of dill, the herb likes to grow near these plants:
- Brussels sprouts
Lettuce is considered by some to be the best companion plant for dill.
On the other hand, plants like chili peppers, bell peppers, carrots, eggplants and potatoes are better grown in another area of the garden.
Growing dill indoors
Many herbs can be grown indoors, and growing dill in the comfort of your home is no exception as long as you have the light conditions that it needs. The plant will grow fairly quickly and the leaves can be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks.
Indoor plants are cared for in the same way as dill that is grown outdoors, but will benefit from a more fertile soil and consistent watering conditions. This will help ensure that your indoor dill plant grows well.
It’s best to sow seeds for indoor dill plants in late winter or early spring. Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep in a rich soil that will drain well. Peat pellets are a good way to get the seeds started. The plant likes a soil with a pH between 6 and 7.5.
Dill loves sunlight. You will need to place the pot near a window that gets 6 hours of sunlight, or else you’ll need to use grow lights to give the plant the light that it needs.
Growing dill from cuttings
We don’t tend to think of taking cuttings of herbs to grow new plants but it is very easy to do. Dill cuttings will root in water fairly quickly and then can be transplanted into pots in about 2-3 weeks.
Choose healthy new growth for best results. Each stem of the dill plant that you root will grow into a new single plant.
When to harvest dill
Harvesting dill is a matter of timing and using a pair of sharp scissors. Fresh dill cannot be kept for long before it wilts, so harvesting when it is needed is best.
The leaves of dill can be harvested as soon as the plant has grown enough to have 4 or 5 leaves on it. There is some thought that dill has the best flavor it if is harvested just as the flowers start to bloom. And some others think that the young leaves have the best flavor.
Be sure to water the dill plant the day before, or day of, harvest. This will hydrate the plant and clean the leaves so that you won’t have to take care of this after you harvest the leaves.
To harvest dill, use a pair of clean, sharp scissors and harvest the plant in the morning hours. Don’t strip the plant clean unless you want this to be the final harvest in the fall. Leaving some leaves growing will allow the plant to produce more healthy growth.
You can continue to harvest until the flowers go to seed. In fact, the more you harvest the plant in the earlier days of growing, the longer the plant will delay flowering.
Varieties of dill
There are many varieties of dill seeds, both GMO and hybrid. Some are early flowering and some bolt later. Here are a few popular types.
- Bouquet– most commonly grown type of dill
- Long Island Mammoth– tall plant with a higher yield than other varieties
- Mammoth – up to 3 feet tall and a 60 day harvest.
- Burpee Hera – late bolting plants
Recipes using fresh dill
We often think of dill weed as an herb that will provide an aromatic flavor to dill pickles but there are many other ways to use dill. From using dill in vinegar or salads to garnishes for fish, this tasty herb is a useful recipe flavoring.
Use the seeds of dill plants in pickling and vinegar recipes and the leaves to flavor lamb, fish and sauces and salads.
Recipes that use fresh dill are common in the Scandinavian and Baltic states, likely because of the high amounts of fish consumed there. Try one of these recipes that use fresh dill to enjoy the aromatic flavor of the fresh herb.
- This pan seared halibut uses a butter dill sauce for super flavoring.
- Looking for a really tasty side dish? Try these fresh carrots with dill to jazz up any simple meal.
- When the weather gets cooler, give this Polish dill pickle soup and ham a try.
- Love the crunch and taste of dill pickles? Give these dill pickle bites are try as a party appetizer.
- These garlic and dill mashed potatoes are made in the slow cooker to make cooking a breeze.
- I bet your party guest will really dig into this dill pickle dip.
- For a healthy and quick weeknight meal, try this lemon and dill salmon. It’s ready in 20 minutes!
- Add a fresh lemon dill dressing to this butter leaf salad for a healthy touch.
- Got a barbecue coming up? Take along this dill potato salad.
- Now this is a sandwich! – Time to make a dill pickle sloppy Joe grilled cheese.
How to freeze and dry fresh dill
One of the questions I am often asked is “Can you freeze dill?” The answer is yes, indeed! Frozen dill is not only possible but the leaves will retain their flavor well even after freezing.
Freezing fresh dill is easy to do and takes about 5 minutes! To freeze fresh dill, wash the sprigs in cold water and pat dry. Lay the dill sprigs on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer to freeze quickly. When they are frozen, transfer them to freezer bags and return to the freezer for storage.
When you are ready to use them, just take out as many sprigs as you want. It thaws quickly and then you can use it in whatever recipe you are making.
How to freeze dill in ice cube trays
Another way to freeze fresh dill is to use water, butter or oil and ice cube trays. (Many herbs can be frozen this way.) The water cubes will add liquid to the recipe when used, but the oil or butter cubes will not water down the recipe. They will just add some oil and flavor to it.
Rinse the dill and pat dry. Chop the dill, discarding the tough stems and place about a tablespoon of the fresh dill in each compartment of the ice cube tray. Top with some water, melted butter or extra virgin olive oil and freeze.
Remove the frozen herb cubes and place in zip lock bags and store in the freezer. The cubes can be used in sauces and soups or in salad dressings.
Tips for drying dill
Freezing dill is the best way to preserve the herb, since dried dill loses some of its flavor. But it is still possible to dry dill and it is easy to do.
To dry dill leaves and flowers, hang them upside down in a warm dry place with a tray underneath to catch the seeds. Dry in the sun if possible. (On a hot covered patio would work well.)
You can also place the dill in a paper bag tied at the top, which will also catch the seeds. It takes about 2 weeks for the leaves and seeds to dry.
You can also dry dill in an oven at the lowest temperature. Just spread it out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. It will take about 2 hours to dry doing it this way.
Would you like a reminder of the tips for growing dill as well as other helpful ideas for the herb? Pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest for easy access later.
Do you use fresh dill in cooking? What is your favorite way to make use of the herb? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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When asked to talk about dill, I often feel like a Texan discussing the native plants of California. I know something about it, but it’s not part of my daily routine. Why not? Primarily because dill thrives in cool weather and truly tastes best when fresh picked; so its limited growing season in Texas tends to keep a lid on my enthusiasm. “But what about dill for pickling?” you ask. Well, for most Texas gardeners, dill is harvested long before the pickling cucumbers are ready (but more about that later). And finally, ask 50 people what their favorite culinary herb is and there won’t be a large dill contingent. So, it puts me in a bit of pickle (yes, pun intended) that a reader’s question about volunteer dill seedlings prompted this article.
In spite of all that, I grow dill. Voted the National Herb Society’s 2010 Herb of the Year, it remains a classic part of the culinary herb garden and essential to any collection of colonial, tea, medicinal or culinary herbs. As a lovely bonus, swallowtail butterflies flock to it as a host plant for their offspring — making it a useful plant in the kitchen and the garden. As late September through October kicks off prime dill growing season in Texas, now’s the time for you to consider adding it to this year’s cool-weather garden. So let’s get right to the heart of the matter.
You might assume that dill’s dill and you’d be in good company. It’s a common assumption. And if you’re using the fresh leaves to flavor food, yes — it’s all Anethum graveolens, and you’ll find the flavor varies very little from cultivar to cultivar. The primary differences between them show up in their mature size, foliage color and how long it takes for the plant to bloom and set seed (botanically, these are technically “fruits”).
The Big Book of Herbs, a comprehensive reference by Dr. Art Tucker and the late, much-beloved herb grower Tom DeBaggio, lists 14 separate seed lines. Surprisingly, at least eight cultivars are commonly available as transplants: ‘Bouquet,’ ‘Fernleaf,’ ‘Dukat,’ ‘Superdukat,’ ‘Delikat,’ ‘Long Island Mammoth,’ ‘Tetra’ and ‘Hercules.’ There are certainly many other cultivars to start from seed, but these tend to be the most widely available as plants. Here’s a breakdown of their basic differences:
‘Bouquet’ grows to a mature height of up to 3 feet, making it mid-sized by dill standards. Its free-flowering habit focuses on seed production. Pickling enthusiasts will appreciate its production of large seed heads that develop early in the season.
‘Fernleaf’ matures to 12 to 18 inches, making it ideal for containers and smaller gardens. It was developed by the Burpee Seed Company from seeds of Turkish origin and has finely cut leaves that are deep blue-green in color.
‘Dukat’ is an older variety of Danish dill that remains widely available. It has abundant deep-green leaves, a delicate sweet flavor and generally reaches a mature height of 2 to 3 feet. You’ll often read that it and ‘Tetra’ are the same cultivar, but Dr. Tucker lists them as separate seed lines. Its slow growing fernlike foliage makes a beautiful edible accent in the landscape.
Both ‘Long Island Mammoth’ and ‘Tetra’ produce a higher weight of fresh foliage per plant by comparison to other cultivars, making them valuable in the cut herb trade. ‘Long Island Mammoth’ and ‘Bouquet’ are also valued for their abundant flower (and therefore, seed) production. ‘Long Island Mammoth’ usually reaches a mature height just shy of 3 feet, although 5 feet is possible, so place it in the back of the bed. It is also cited by many sources as the dill most widely grown for non-commercial use, although I believe ‘Bouquet’ may overtake that position.
‘Delikat’ is a newer variety with dense, dark green foliage and compact growth. It is also thought to be more tolerant of light shade, as are ‘Fernleaf’ and ‘Dukat.’
‘Hercules’ reaches a 3 to 4 foot height and is a late, but heavy, bloomer with a high yield of dense green, color-retentive foliage. The foliage is somewhat coarse and therefore best used in cooking when leaves are young and tender. It is a favorite of commercial growers because of its shipping durability.
‘Superdukat’ was developed to have a higher essential oil content resulting in a more intense flavor. It is also slow to “bolt,” making it ideal for those who wish to harvest leaves over a longer period with less seed production desired.
Dill is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and develops the long taproot and umbel-shaped (think inverted “umbrella”) flowers characteristic of this family. Because of the taproot you’ll often hear it repeated that dill doesn’t transplant well, but this only applies to bare-root transplant. You’ll find young 4” potted plants with undisturbed root balls transplant with no difficulty. However, this is an herb where starting from seed does have a number of advantages. It germinates easily and you can extend your harvest by successive small plantings, typically 3 weeks apart. Choose a sunny location with loose, friable soil rich in organic matter. Water the soil well prior to planting seed which may be broadcast on the surface and lightly raked in. Seedlings should emerge within two weeks and then be thinned to approximately 12 to 18 inches apart, depending on the anticipated mature size of the cultivar, after an additional two weeks.
Do not believe books or seed packets that state dill is a warm-weather plant and direct you to sow the seeds in the spring. In Texas, we consider it a cool-weather annual. Plant dill in the fall, typically mid- to late October, and you can begin harvesting leaves approximately eight weeks later. It prefers temperatures between 40º and 78º F, but you’ll find mature plants are frost-tolerant.
Dill is less tolerant of heat. If you’re tempted to buy a healthy looking dill plant once average temperatures have already topped 80 degrees, plan to use it up soon after purchase. It’s doomed to a short lifetime if planted in the full sun and triple digits of a Texas summer. That said, for a true dill lover it is possible to limp through the summer with fresh dill. Make continuous successive plantings every 3 to 4 weeks, be sure to keep the soil moist but not wet, give the seedlings a little protection from the hottest part of the day with a tent of lightweight shade cloth, and harvest the young plants regularly by cutting them off at soil level. The heat prompts dill to rush quickly through its life cycle to seed production and death, but it is possible to have fresh dill all year with a generous amount of coddling by the gardener.
Dill is sensitive to water stress; so establish a regular watering schedule to prevent extreme fluctuations in soil moisture. Seeds and small seedlings may be watered with gentle overhead sprinkling; but as dill matures, drip irrigation or watering at ground level (rather than overhead) will reduce water loss, stem breakage and plant disease.
If your area is prone to high winds, plant dill in a protected area or support your plants with tomato towers or stakes that can be covered. Dill’s tall growth and hollow stems make it very susceptible to damage from wind, heavy rain and hail. Large tomato towers provide stem support and a framework for quickly covering the plants with a protective fabric if hail or thunderstorms are anticipated.
Harvest, Use, Storage
Dill leaves (typically called dill “weed”) lose flavor rapidly once picked. To optimize essential oils and flavor, harvest leaves before the blooms begin to open, early in the morning when moisture content is high. Refrigerate the cut dill with its stems in a glass of water until ready to use.
Cooking with Dill — Many culinary uses of dill come to us from northern European traditions. But it may surprise you that the distinctly fresh flavor of dill has also found its way into a variety of everyday Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods, often in a base of thick yogurt or sour cream. And while few would argue that dill and salmon have a natural affinity, or that dill and cucumbers combine to make an ideal pickle, you might not think of adding fresh dill to sautéed vegetables, roasted carrots, fresh salad greens, mashed potatoes or your favorite bread recipe. Dill is even brewed for a tisane traditionally thought to calm the stomach or induce a feeling of serenity. After all, the name “dill” comes from the Norse word meaning to lull or calm. The bottom line is this — as with all culinary herbs, if the fragrance of dill seems to complement the dish, try adding a small amount of the fresh leaves to the recipe. Heat for as little time as possible or add just before serving to preserve flavor. Whatever you do, don’t simply write dill off as the “pickle herb.” It’s much more versatile than you might have imagined.
The following sauce is often served over warm steamed or braised leeks, but is equally delicious with fish, chicken or roasted lamb. The ground sumac adds an unusual, citrus-tinged flavor. If you’re unable to find sumac at your local Middle Eastern market, substitute a sprinkle of smoky paprika or cayenne pepper and some finely grated lemon zest.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
2 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
3 to 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Ground sumac to sprinkle as a flavorful garnish
Combine ingredients. If too thick, sauce may be thinned with milk or buttermilk to desired consistency. It may be gently warmed if preferred, but is equally delicious served at room temperature.
Pickling Vinegar — Our dill production typically “goes south” long before we have much to pickle. To preserve dill for the cucumber or okra harvest yet to come, cut fresh dill fronds and bloom heads into segments approximately 2 to 3 inches in length. Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with the dill segments and completely cover with white vinegar (or your pickling vinegar of choice). If the jar has a metal lid, be certain to cover the jar first with a double layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the metal lid. This will prevent corrosion. Place the jar in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start pickling your harvest. By then, your pickling vinegar will be well flavored and can be used as directed in a favorite recipe. As the infused vinegar and preserved dill sections are ideal for creating a variety of pickled vegetables, be sure you’ve made plenty to handle all the cucumbers, carrots and okra; and remember to place some of the preserved dill sections and flowers in each jar as a garnish. Here’s one version of an easy to prepare but flavorful vegetable pickling liquid:
Basic Pickling Liquid
2 cups dill infused cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup equal parts mustard seed, black peppercorns, coriander seed, dill seed and lightly crushed red pepper (approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons each)
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour hot liquid over clean, prepared vegetables, add some of the reserved dill leaves and stems from the dill vinegar, and refrigerate until well flavored.
Are pickles and potato salad among your favorite foods? Bon Appétit magazine once published a delicious Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad recipe that combines the best of both in one dish. When made with dill-infused vinegar, it remains one of my favorite summer picnic dishes — even if the growing season for dill occurs on the opposite side of the calendar. The original recipe is still available online at www.epicurious.com.
Dill Vodka — An infusion technique is also used by our fellow Texas gardener, Lee Clippard, who blogs about his Blackland Prairie garden in east Austin at www.the-grackle.blogspot.com. This past February, Lee preserved a portion of his dill harvest in vodka rather than vinegar, then used the delicious result to create refreshing and distinctive Bloody Marys. Visit his blog for more delectable food ideas and some truly gifted garden design inspiration.
Dill Seeds — Once the plant blooms, foliage growth will stop as the plant turns its energies to seed production. Dill seeds are then harvested at the end of the plant’s life cycle when the blooms have dried and the seeds have turned a dark golden color. The easiest harvesting method is to collect the whole seed heads in a paper bag, securely close the top of the bag and allow to dry thoroughly — usually about 2 weeks. Remove stem and plant material and save the seeds in a cool, dry place. Dill seed may be used in cooking or preserved for cultivation the next growing season. If seeds are allowed to fall in the garden soil, volunteers are often spotted when cool weather and moisture return.
Herbal Vinegar — Dill makes a delicious herbal vinegar for salads and cooking, but for these purposes I prefer the milder flavor of rice vinegar over any other. Distilled vinegar is too harsh, as is cider vinegar, for many applications. White wine or champagne vinegars work well both in flavor and appearance, but rice vinegar provides a more versatile and mellow backdrop for the delicate dill. As with the pickling vinegar or vodka infusions already described, I fill a glass jar with dill and add the liquid. But for herbal vinegars, the addition of whole peppercorns and garlic chives, or a few bruised cloves of garlic, makes a flavorful blend.
Herbal oils can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. After that, they begin to degrade. Make dill oil by combining fresh dill leaves and just enough olive oil to blend to a paste. Keep this oil simple; the dill flavor alone can be added to a wider variety of recipes without interfering with the other ingredients.
Herbal butters may also be frozen until needed. Add dill, freshly minced garlic, sea salt or kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to room temperature butter. Amounts of each ingredient are determined only by what appeals to you. Wrap the flavored butter in parchment and shape into a roll or tube. Store this inside a zip-closure freezer bag or wrapped in heavy foil. When cooking meat, fish or poultry, a slice of dill butter melting over the surface as the dish is served adds a glistening layer of fresh flavor and a professional finish.
Dill salt is yet another way to preserve dill during its growing season. Layer the fresh leaves with coarse sea salt or kosher salt and allow time for the salt to absorb the essential oils. Some of the more delicate flavors of dill aren’t captured with this method, but it’s still a tasty product and an unusual but welcome gift. Both the dehydrated leaves and the flavored salt may be used for cooking.
My dill won’t stand up!
This isn’t a very active sub, I’m noticing… but I’d like to know if you solved your problem! I’m a few weeks in to my first growth of some herbs and have noticed the dill as well as the cilantro aren’t really standing up on their own very well. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re just not strong enough yet, or i need to prop them up with something.. there isn’t a lot of room to stick something into the pod to prop it with!
I’m also going to attempt (tonight) switching out the water and cleaning the reservoir. The instruction booklet says it is a good idea to do once every second feeding, so once a month, and it’s been less than that, but i’m hoping it might just be enough to rejuvenate the plants and give them enough vivacity to stand up on their own! I’m 3 days past new nutrient addition but I think I can get away with putting in just a little less when I exchange the water.
I also haven’t tried any pruning yet, I’m afraid, with such young plants, that it will harm them (I’m really new to gardening in general) but it does say to be liberal with the pruning, so we’ll see!
I’d really like to know what’s worked for you and what you’ve tried!! Thanks!
Dill and fennel often get confused for one another. They seem similar in appearance, but they are in fact two different plants used for different purposes and each possess unique characteristics that directly affect the nature of the dishes that they are used in.
Although seemingly similar, dill (on the left) and fennel (on the right) are two different plants used for different purposes. The following differences help identify the two for their unique qualities and properties.
- the dill plant’s leaves and seeds are used for consumption. In the fennel plant, the leaves, the seed and even the bulb is used for culinary and medical purposes.
- Fennel leaves are longer than dill leaves and taste distinctly different. However, both are used in cooking and garnishing purposes.
- Fennel features a distinct black liquorice taste that is absent in dill.
- dill has therapeutic effects on the digestive system, controls infection, and has a diuretic effect.
- Fennel increases milk flow, relaxes spasms, and reduces inflammation.
Fresh and dried dill leaves (sometimes called “dill weed” to distinguish it from dill seed) are widely used as herbs in Europe and central Asia. The fernlike leaves of dill are aromatic and are used to flavor many foods such as gravlax (cured salmon) and other fish dishes, borscht and other soups, as well as pickles (where the dill flower is sometimes used). Dill is best when used fresh as it loses its flavor rapidly if dried; however, freeze-dried dill leaves retain their flavor relatively well for a few months. Dill seed, having a flavor similar to caraway seeds is used as a spice. Dill oil is extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant. Dill is the eponymous ingredient in dill pickles: cucumbers preserved in salty brine and/or vinegar.
Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, fronded top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It’s very firm and crunchy, and it tastes a bit like licorice and anise. It has a fresh, bright taste and it’s great to use in salads. It can also be grilled or braised until tender. Fennel is part of the carrot family. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Although Absinthe is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur, absinthe is not traditionally bottled with added sugar; it is therefore classified as a spirit.
Fennel seeds Sugar-coated fennel seeds are used as an after-meal snack and breath freshener in Indian cuisine. Dill seeds
All About Growing Dill – Planting, Pruning, & Harvesting
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Dill (or dill weed) is a herb used in a variety of cuisines across the world. The leaves and seeds are used as herbs or spices for flavoring food, and all parts of the plant are edible. Though most gardeners grow dill as an annual herb, it is actually biennial. Dill has no serious disease problems to contend with.
Dill is an extremely easy herb to grow (that’s why they call it dill weed!) and it can actually reseed itself and grow year after year in the same spot or container. It’s a great herb to grow in a traditional garden or a container. It can also be grown indoors with enough light. We highly recommend it for beginner gardeners or teaching kids about gardening and growing food. In this article, we break down everything you need to know about growing dill.
How to Grow Dill
Since dill is so easy to grow, you have a lot of options for how and where you can grow it. You can choose indoors or outside, in a garden bed or in a container. The biggest concern is to make sure your dill plant receives enough light. If you plant to grow indoors, it should either be in a sunny windowsill or with supplementary lighting.
While you can buy dill seedlings to transplant into your garden or container, it is incredibly easy to grow from seed, which can be sewn directly into the soil. Their long taproot makes them difficult to transplant once the seedling has grown it. Transplanting at that point can damage the plant and reduce yield.
Growing Dill in a Garden
If growing directly from seed, the packet should have instructions, but generally, you can plant your seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the average last date of frost. Pick a spot in your garden that receives full sun that you would like to grow dill in for several years.
Plant the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 an inch deep, spacing rows 2-3 feet apart. Use regular and even waterings to keep the soil moist until seedlings sprouts. Thin to a spacing of 12 inches apart.
If you want continuous fresh harvests of dill, you can sow successive crops every 3 – 4 weeks.
Once your dill plant is established, allow the soil to dry between waterings. Prune any flowers to encourage continued growth (see the section on pruning for more information).
Companion Plants for Dill
Companion planting is a great technique that allows gardeners to add natural benefits to their garden through repelling insects, attracting beneficial insects, providing nutrients, shade, or support. Dill is a great herb for companion planting.
Dill is perfect to grow in any garden, but especially those with pest problems. If you have a problem with aphids, dill attracts ladybugs and lacewings, which eat aphids. It also attracts swallowtail butterflies and honeybees, which are pollinators. Dill can also repel or distract aphids, spider mites, squash bugs, and cabbage loopers.
You should avoid planting dill near carrots, nightshades, caraway, and cilantro (to avoid cross-pollination),
Some gardeners say that planting dill with tomatoes can be beneficial, but since dill attracts tomato hornworms it can actually attract pests to your tomato plants. We leave that choice to your discretion.
Growing Dill in a Container
If you choose to grow dill in a container, keep in mind that they have a long taproot and need a container about 12 inches deep (you can get away with a smaller container if you are planting a dwarf variety like Dukat). Beyond the size, the choice of a container type is yours. If growing outside, select a location for your pot where your dill will receive full sun (at least 6-8 hours a day). If you want to get a head start on your dill, you can keep the pot or container inside until all chance of frost is gone.
Fill your container with any standard potting mix. Dill will grow in almost any soil (though it prefers slightly acidic soil), just make sure it is well draining. Sprinkle your seeds on top and cover with a light layer of soil. Keep the soil moist and until the seedlings sprout. When they reach 1-2 inches in height, thin to one or two plants in each pot. Continue care as normal for Dill.
If starting your dill seeds indoors or growing inside, make sure you place the pot in a sunny window–they need about 6-8 hours of sunlight. South facing windows work best. If the needed sunlight is not available, you can supplement with grow lights, including low energy LED lights.
Growing Dill Hydroponically
Dill is also a great choice to grow hydroponically. Because it usually grows so tall, you should select a dwarf variety like Fernleaf dill. Your hydroponic set up should include a sunny location or grow lights. If you’re new to gardening or looking for an easy setup for your kitchen counter, a hydroponic herb garden kit is a great choice.
Check out this video that includes all the basics on how to prune, harvest, and grow dill.
Types of Dill
There are several different types of dill that are great for growing in home gardens or in containers. Here are a few of the most common ones that you may want to consider when planning your garden.
Bouquet Dill (Buy seeds) – This is the most common dill grown by home gardeners. It has fragrant leaves and seeds perfect for pickling or cooking.
Mammoth Dill (Buy seeds) – Also known as “Long Island Dill,” is a very large variety of dill, sometimes growing up to 5 ft tall. It is best grown in garden beds, though it can be cultivated in large containers. It does require full sun, so keep that in mind while planning your garden. Mammoth dill is often used for pickling and also works well for all other dill uses and recipes.
Fernleaf Dill (Buy seeds) – This is a common dwarf variety of dill, with the plants reaching a maximum height of 18″. It’s a great choice for container gardening or growing indoors. It’s also the best choice for growing hydroponically. Some people also use it in flower arrangements.
Dukat Dill (Buy seeds) – This is another dwarf dill plant, perfect for containers and growing indoors. What makes it stand apart from other dill varieties is its bright green color and rich foliage. Many people enjoy Dukat dill in salads.
Vierling Dill – If you want to have dill available all summer, Vierling takes longer to bolt. It’s great for warmer climates with a longer growing season.
How to Prune Dill
If you want, you can easily let your dill grow wild, take a little bit when you need it to cook, and just let the plant complete its natural lifecycle. Dill is so easy to grow that it will continue to propagate each year without much intervention from you. But by pruning, you can better control the plant in multiple ways.
Dill naturally grows tall, with most types growing about 3-4 feet tall. Mammoth Dill can reach up to five feet. Sometimes that may not be convenient if you’re growing the dill inside or in a compact garden area. You can use pruning to pinch back your dill plant and encourage it to grow bushier.
Depending on the type of dill you grow, it may flower sooner than you would like. If you want the plant to continue to grow, you will need to prune the flowers. Once the dill goes to seed the plant will die and you’ll need to replant or wait until the next summer. Pinching back the flowers before they open also helps to avoid cross-pollination with other plants like cilantro, which can ruin both plants.
To prune your dill to make it bushier or prevent flowering is quite easy. If you’ve been harvesting it regularly, you won’t need to prune. But if the plant has gotten away from you, you’ll just need to snip or pinch the dill. You can use your fingers, a pair of pruning shears, or even just some kitchen scissors.
While most gardeners will just prune anywhere on the plant, we find it’s best to prune at the branch, especially when removing flowers. When you’re looking at your plant, you will see a joint that the flower springs out of. Cut above the joint, on the perpendicular branch (see the image to the left).
Evening if you’re just pruning for maintenance, don’t waste your dill! Use it to season salad dressing, add a little zip to your salad, or store it in the fridge for a week or two. You can also dry the excess dill for long-term storage, which we’ll talk about later in this article.
How to Harvest Dill
Harvesting dill is just like pruning dill, except you’re harvesting with the purpose of using the dill. Unless it’s the end of the season, you want to make sure to follow a few simple rules to protect the plant.
Dill can be harvested at any point in the season, however, you do not want to harvest the plant until it has at least 5 “leaves.” For a dill plant, which has many tiny tendrils, a leaf is more like a “leaf unit”. It will stand off from the branch of the plant as a self-contained unit (see the image to the right).
When you harvest, try to cut or pluck at the juncture (as illustrated in the section above on pruning). If you just need a pinch of dill, you can take less than an entire “leaf.” Generally try to harvest from the top of the plant, which will encourage it to grow bushier rather than tall.
A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 1/3 of the plant behind when you harvest. That way you won’t cripple or kill the plant by harvesting too much. Remember, if you’re growing multiple dill plants in one pot or section of garden, you need to leave 1/3 of each plant separately.
Harvested dill will last 1-2 weeks in the fridge, but we generally recommend just harvesting as much as you need at the time from the plant.
How to Dry Dill
Dill is best when used fresh (it loses flavor quickly when dried), but when you reach the end of the growing season or have a surplus of dill, drying is a great option to extend its use. Dill leaves, seeds, and stems can all be dried.
Generally, dill has the best flavor when it just begins to flower, so that is considered the best time to harvest dill for drying. If you want to dry seeds as well, you will have to wait for the plant to go to seed before you harvest. Dill seeds are much more flavorful than the leaves when dried.
After you harvest your dill, wash it to remove dirt and insects. To dry the dill leaves, clip off the individual leaflets. Lay them in a single layer in a dehydrator or on a baker’s rack or clothes drying rack. If you plan on frequently drying herbs from your garden, you may want to use an herb drying rack (like the one pictured on the right). If using a dehydrator, it should take about a day. To air dry, pick a warm, dry room, without direct sunlight and allow several days for the dill to dry. Turn the leaves each day to allow even air exposure.
Once the dill is dried, crush the leaflets and store them in a glass jar. Since dried dill is less potent, you will need to use double the amount in your recipes. The dried dill should keep for 4 to 6 months if stored in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
How to Dry & Save Dill Seeds
To dry dill seeds, allow the plant to go to seed. Clip the bunch from the plant and tie them together by the stems in small bundles. Using a drying rack, hand the dill seeds upside down. Place something under the rack to catch the seeds and leaves as they dry. Hanging a bag from the rack works well, as long as it doesn’t restrict airflow. You can punch holes in the bag to help with this. The seeds should dry and drop within a few weeks.
Store the dried seeds in a glass jar in a cool, dark area. You can then use them in cooking or plant them during the next growing season.
If drying the seeds feels like to much work and you want to grow dill in the same spot next year you can let the plant reseed itself. Allow the dill to flower and dry up. As the seeds dry it will drop them in place. Remove the plants when all the seeds have dropped.
Culinary Uses for Dill & Recipes
When most people think of uses for dill, their first thought is automatically: pickles! And if you’re growing cucumbers in your garden with the dill, this is a great option to use up this tangy herb. There are as many dill recipes and techniques as there are pickle lovers, so you may want to play around until you find the one you like best.
Most recipes will just call for fresh dill, but often the flowers of the dill plant are used in pickling as well. Many gardeners recommend picking the flowers when they are still green buds, as the dill flavor is more powerful. You can also use the flowers when they are blooming yellow or when they’ve turned to the brown seed. Experiment and find what you like best.
If you’re just starting out, here are some pickling recipes you can try:
Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Easy Dill Pickle Recipe
Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles
Fast Garlic Dill Pickles
Dill goes fantastically with fish, especially salmon. There are many delicious recipes that combined dill with lemon and butter to flavor and enhance baked or grilled salmon. Here are a few of our favorite dill and salmon recipes for you to try:
Dill, Salmon, and Zucchini Kabobs
Salmon and Dill Pizza
Dill and Dijon Salmon
Dill is also a fantastic herb to flavor dressings and dips. Here are some tasty recipes you can try with your harvest:
Dill Buttermilk Salad Dressing
Dairy Free Ranch Dressing with Dill
Lemon Dill Tartar Sauce
Dill is also a great complement to potatoes, especially potato salads and other side dishes. Here are some tasty dishes to try:
Grilled Potato Salad
Roasted Potato and Herb Salad
Dill Pickle Greek Yogurt Potato Salad
Potato and Green Bean Salad with Eggs
Creamy Dill Potato Salad
Feel free to experiment with dill in your recipes. Use fresh leaves to spice up a salad or just plain sour cream. Add it to soups and broth to create more dimension. The possibilities are as endless as your dill supply
Dill vs. Fennel
“Wave your fronds in the air, wave ’em like you just don’t care!” DJ Dillyweed and Sista Fenny Fennel face off in Battle of the Weeds. Yes, both of these flava-flavorful aromatics are vying for a spot in our West Coast TakeHome cases this week, but only one will be champion.
Dill and Fennel are notorious herbs, lauded for their medicinal talents. Both are carminatives (they can allay digestive disorders) and can be found in the cure “gripe water” for colicky babies.
Their stage names may be Dill and Fennel, but their mothers call them Anethum graveolens and Foeniculum vulgare (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Both are in the family of aromatic plants that have hollow stems, commonly known as umbellifers. Technically weeds, they’re exceptionally easy to grow, self-seeding to a fault, and attract butterflies.
In the kitchen, both herbs add flavor to beat the band. Dill is used mostly for its dried seed in pickling and northern European cuisine, or fresh in sauces and salad dressings. It “blends the distinctive flavor of its seed with pleasant green, fresh notes,” says kitchen scientist Harold McGee. Fennel, on the other hand, is more anise- or licorice-like. When not grown for its seed, the farmer directs the plant’s energy into the bulb. Fennel bulb is a versatile, mild veggie that is superb sautéed or grilled in Mediterranean dishes or raw in salads—or prepared as they do in downtown Turin with an anchovy sauce.
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Cut off branches and trim the hard bottom of the bulb—julienne or chop bulb. Trim fronds and use whole or chop fine.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag. Will keep for 5–7 days. Wash before use.