Delightful Dill

Learn about growing, storing, and cooking with dill to take advantage of crisp dill flavor in summer dishes.


| Summer 2017



Dill

Dill adds sweet-citrusy notes to summer dishes.

Photo by iStock/ehaurylik

In summer, dill’s feathery fronds, so wispy and insubstantial through the vacillations of spring weather, now put on a bold display, growing at breathtaking speed into a tall, fernlike mass. Indeed, dill's carefree, lacy appearance is almost a metaphor for lazy, sun-baked days in the backyard. Perhaps that’s one reason dill assumes such prominence in summer foods. Can you imagine barbecues or picnics without dill-spiked potato salads, deviled eggs, or pickles?

Distinct Dill Flavor: Dill Weed and Seeds

Dill (Anethum graveolens) offers two variations on one flavor theme. The foliage, called "dill weed," tastes crisp, fresh, and herbaceous like parsley but with added sweet-citrusy notes. The seeds, which develop later in the season, have a stronger flavor — more aromatic, minty, medicinal, and pungent.

The difference in flavor between the leaves and the seeds results from the differing composition of their essential oils. The seed oil, which is 2 to 5 percent of the weight of the seeds, consists mainly of carvone and limonene, compounds that also dominate the oil — and thus the flavor — of caraway seeds. Dill and caraway seeds are interchangeable in many recipes.

Dill weed contains roughly a third as much essential oil as the seeds, and its oil contains less of the rather strident carvone and limonene; these are replaced in part by the fresh and faintly minty alpha-phellandrene.

Dill weed is the perfect match for the foods we love when the temperature soars: grilled fish, vine-ripened tomatoes, blanched baby carrots, shellfish cocktails, bean salads, cucumbers in yogurt, guacamole, and chilled vegetable soups. Even zucchini, so welcome at its first appearance but so tiresome thereafter, retains its appeal when thin slices, quickly sautéed in olive oil, are dressed with snipped dill weed.

Though dill weed is native to Southwestern Asia, its admirers extend deep into the Middle East and north into Scandinavia. The dill-filled dishes of these regions offer some delicious uses of this herb. In Iran, people add it by the fistful to their classic sabzi polo (dilled pilaf) and serve dill weed and other fresh herbs with yogurt or fresh cheeses. In Scandinavia, dill embellishes pickled herring, and the herb is essential for gravlax (salt-cured salmon). People in Russia enjoy dill with fish, wild mushrooms, beets, sour cream, and even vodka. For a tasty Bloody Mary (or Virgin Mary if you omit the vodka), muddle a sprig of dill weed in a glass with tomato juice, add vodka and ice, and serve.





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