Dill is delightful, versatile, aromatic, and delicious. In the past, it was primarily used for preserving dill pickles. However, dill is an herb that has grown in popularity in recent years, and is now not just used in canning, but also in main dishes, salads, and sides.
For home gardeners, more good news is that dill is easy to grow, harvest, preserve, and reseed from your own plants. Even a novice gardener can have great success with this flavorful herb — and once you have your own little patch of dill in the garden, you can enjoy experimenting with it in all kinds of recipes.
Growing and Harvesting Dill
Dill is easy to grow in all kinds of soils, and in all different climate zones. Simply sow the seeds in a row 1/4 inch deep, about 18 inches apart. Rake the soil over the seeds, and water gently.
Dill seeds take to warmer soil — between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is best. In northern climates, that means sowing the seeds in late spring or early summer.
As the plant matures throughout the summer, you can harvest fresh dill by simply snipping off a frond or two with kitchen scissors. You'll notice that the sweet, distinctive smell will become stronger as you cut the plant. The flavor from the herb will also be released as you tear off the small leaves of the frond and add it to your cooking.
If you want to preserve the dill leaves, harvest the plants before they go to seed. Just take the dill plant and hang it upside down in a dry area of your home, or on the porch. Alternatively, you can snip off the individual fronds, wash them, and allow them to dry on paper towels. After a few days, the leaves will be dry and ready to be stored in clean bottles or sealed bags for future use. Be sure to store dried dill away from the light to maintain its color and flavor.
You can also allow your dill plants to mature and go to seed, and then harvest the seeds themselves. The seeds can be used for pickling, or for replanting your dill in the spring. The seeds are large and easy to keep through winter.
If you don't harvest your dill, it will reseed itself. This is best done in a confined area, as dill can spread throughout a garden if you aren't careful. I'll confess to not being careful. I've had dill plants come up in my tomato patch from time to time. Some I pulled up, and others I let mature in the rows — I love the smell of dill while I work in the garden.
Cooking With Dill
A little bit of dill can have a strong impact on the flavor of many dishes. For example, adding about 1/2 teaspoon to potato salad, tuna-macaroni salad, or pasta salad gives those traditional dishes a pleasant new zing. Dill is also a great way to perk up sliced cucumbers and onions in sour cream.
Need an easy dip to go with fresh veggies? Stir 1 teaspoon of dill and 3/4 teaspoon of seasoning salt into a cup of sour cream. Chill for 30 minutes, and you're ready to serve with all kinds of fresh, raw vegetables.
Dill also enhances the flavor of many seafood dishes. Try sprinkling dry or fresh dill, along with coarse salt or other seasoning, on salmon or tilapia before you broil or grill it. You'll certainly notice the difference!
New Potatoes and Garden Veggies
One of our favorite dishes in the summer is fried new potatoes with garden vegetables, garlic, and dill. It seems like every summer, the green beans in my garden start slowly, with just a handful or two to pick for dinner. Of course, a week later, there are all kinds of beans to pick. But what to do with those first few beans? This recipe uses them with other veggies that are just beginning to ripen and mature in the garden.
What You Need
• 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• New potatoes, unpeeled, diced (about 1/2 to 1 cup per person)
• 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed or diced
• Fresh green beans (a few, a handful, or as many as you like)
• 1 bell pepper, sliced into small strips (green, red, or orange)
• 1 onion, sliced, separated into rings
• 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh dill
• Salt and pepper, to taste
1) Heat oil in an electric skillet or large frying pan.
2) Add potatoes and garlic, and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes just begin to soften, gently stirring frequently so they don't stick.
3) Add green beans, bell pepper strips, and onion rings, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness.
4) Stir in dill, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Easy Slow-Cooker Country French Chicken
Here's another family favorite, and one that couldn't be any easier to prepare — and it also couldn't be any more delicious. Simply throw all the ingredients in a slow cooker and let it cook while you go about your day.
What You Need
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, frozen
• 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) cream of chicken soup
• 1/3 cup white cooking wine or chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon dried dill
• Prepared rice or pasta
1) Place frozen chicken breasts, soup, cooking wine, and dill in a slow cooker.
2) Cover and cook on high for about 4 hours.
3) Serve over rice or pasta.