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Synonyms for dill include Aneth, False Anise, Bastard Fennel, and Anethum Sowa and Anethum Graveolens in Latin. Dill is used in cooking both as a leafy green vegetable and a fragrant flavouring herb.

Dill is also sometimes called dill weed. Dill is most often used to flavour fish as its fresh grassy flavour makes for a superb flavour marriage. It is also a very common addition to dill pickles. Dill is also used in soups, egg dishes and in sauces. The Dill plant produces twice a year; first leaves and when they ripen, the seeds. Both fresh and dried leaves may be used in cooking, but fresh leaves are preferred.


[edit] Provenance

Dill is a member of the Umbelliferae family. Other members of this group include carrots,parsley, caraway, dill, cumin, and fennel.

Dill is variously said to have been a native of Europe and western Asia, the Mediterranean region, southern Russia and Scandinavia. The Romans are said to have introduced this herb to England and its cultivation is now naturalised almost all over the world in places as disparate as Asia Minor, North Africa and India.

In Spain, coastal Italy and Portugal it is said to grow wild amidst cultivated corn. Many literary references indicate that the ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of dill and that its use was widespread. Its use continued to be prevalent in the the Middle Ages.

[edit] History

The French name for dill- Aneth comes from the Greek word “Anethon” meaning fennel. Fennel and Dill were both onsidered symbols of vitality and wealth in ancient Rome.

The Norse or Anglo-Saxon word ‘dylle’ or "dilla" is commonly presumed to be the origin of the modern English word dill. These words mean "to soothe or lull",. This is a indication of the plant's anti-flatulent properties.

The ancient Greeks also used dill. For them the herb was a symbol of wealth. Burning dill scented oil was a symbol of considerable ostentation. It also had more practical applications like Hippocrates' recipe for mouthwash which advises using dill seeds macerated in white wine to rinse the mouth with and also to use it as a gargling solution. Greeks also considered dill a soporific. They advised covering insomniac's heads with dill leaves or sleeping with the herb under the pillow to deal with the disorder.

Dill was often used as a medium of exchange. The Talmud asked for the payment of taxes with dill as currency. The Bible also mentions this custom. (Matthew 23:23).

[edit] Culinary Uses

Dill is a natural preservative for the food in which it is mixed since it inhibits the growth of several bacteria.

Dill leaves are used as a culinary herb and the seeds are used in cooking in North Africa in the preparation of meat, the erstwhile Soviet Union and particularly in Scandinavia where they are used in the preparation of Salmon and crayfish.

Dill is also used to make an aromatic vinegar and as a flavouring for various pickles including gherkins. With their light simple flavour dill leaves are a natural flavouring for fish, mild cheeses, egg dishes, vegetable dishes, cream sauces and potatoes. Cucumbers and dill are an excellent combination especially in salads, chilled soups or in sandwiches. The flavour of fresh dill leaves is superior to that of dried ones.

Dill seeds have a much stronger flavour than the leaves and are similar to a combination of anise and celery. These may be used in breads, stews, rice, root vegetable dishes and most notably, the making of pickles. These seed heads, when combined with vinegars, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper produce delightful dilled pickles.

[edit] Therapeutic Uses

Dill leaves act as a diuretic and as a stimulant. They are also excellent digestive aids and soothe minor stomach ailments.

A digestive aid: Eating dill in its cooked form helps aid digestion and prevents constipation. One or two teaspoons of a decoction made from green leaves helps children’s digestion. A similar tea made with dill seeds is also efficacious. Dill oil, obtained from the distillation of the seeds is an effective medicine for hyperacidity, flatulent colic, hiccups and diarrhoea due to indigestion.

Diarrhoea and Dysentery: Roasted dill and fenugreek seeds together make a powerful tonic that helps in the treatment of diarrhoea and bacillary dysentery.

Viral infections: An infusion of dill seeds taken with honey helps to cure influenza

Insomnia: Dill is a calming and sedative food. The Greeks put dill leaves under their caps or covered their heads with leaves to induce sleep. Hindu Physicians in Ancient India advised keeping a few sprigs of the herb next to the pillow to counter insomnia. In fact, the Hindi name for dill is “sooya” meaning “slept”.

Pregnancy and Lactation: The liberal use of dill after childbirth increases the production of breast milk. Since eating dill also prevents early ovulation, it is a natural birth control device.

Menstrual disorders: Dill helps regularise and stimulate menstrual flow and also decreases menstrual pain in young girls. It also helps deal with the absence of menstruation due to anaemia, cold and pregnancy.

Boils and Swellings: A paste made from dill leaves helps ripen boils. Mixed with a little turmeric powder, it helps prevent the formation of pus in ulcers and speeds healing. The leaves boiled in sesame oil are an excellent liniment to reduce the swelling and pain of joints.

[edit] Other uses

Oil of Dill is sometimes used in the production of soaps in order to scent them. It can also be crushed and used as a nail strenghtening bath and also chewed to sweeten breath.

[edit] Caution

Dill may cause skin rashes. Pregnant women should limit its intake as it may cause the abortion of the foetus.

[edit] Cultivation

  • Site

Full sun and protect from wind

  • Soil

The soil should be rich and well drained

  • Propagating

Sow insitu from spring until midsummer. It also self seeds. The seeds are viable for 3-10 years. Dill does not cross pollinate with fennel.

  • Growing

Thin to 9-12 in (23-30 cm) apart. Can be grown indoors.

  • Harvesting

Gather leaves when young. Pick flowering tops just as fruits begin to form. To collect seed, after flowering head turns brown, hang the whole plant over a cloth.

  • Preserving

Dry or freeze leaves. Dry ripe seed or make dill vinegar with flowering heads or seed.

[edit] References

  • Larousse Gastronomique
  • The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
  • Indian Spices and Condiments as Natural Healers: Dr. H.K. Bakhru: Jaico Books
  • Dill
  • A Modern Herbal - Dill

[edit] See Also