The feathery leaves of dill really pack a punch, adding an unmistakable anise-like flavour to all sorts of dishes. The plant itself is an annual herb, which forms a tall clump of deep green foliage about 60-90cm high. Its culinary uses range from summer salads, to potato, egg and fish dishes – it’s one of the classic flavourings in gravlax, the Scandinavian cured salmon dish. It also makes a wonderful flavouring for seasoned vinegars and, of course, dill mayonnaise. The seeds of the plant are used as a flavouring, too – they’re combined with fresh leaves and baby cucumbers to make dill pickles.
Dill is easy to grow from seeds or seedlings, planted in spring or early summer. Ideally it prefers full sun, but a lightly shaded spot is OK as well. It also helps to:
- Sow seeds directly where you want, in clumps spaced about 30cm apart.
- Harvest leaves regularly, as older foliage tends to become bitter. Seed-sown plants will reach maturity in about eight weeks – seedlings sooner.
- Make repeat sowings during the season so you’ll always have fresh young plants coming through. (If summers are hot, plants can suddenly bolt to flowering and seed stage.)
- Feed your dill plants periodically with a soluble fertiliser and trim off any flower heads you see forming.
You can snip away freely at your dill plant, whether you want just a few leaves to garnish a salad, or
a big bunch for a recipe. Other tips to keep in mind:
- Pick stems from the centre of the plant, as this delays the onset of flowering.
- Fresh young growth has the best flavour.
- At the end of summer, you can let the flowers set and, once they’ve dried out, harvest the seeds for use in flavoured vinegars and pickles.