Dill is a popular home garden herb which is versatile for both cooking and homeopathy. The seeds are slow sprouting (2 to 4 weeks), but, once established, are easy to grow. It can be grown in deep pots on sheltered patios and balconies in fertile, well drained soil in a sunny location. The plants tend to get "leggy" so staking the plant will probably be necessary as they mature. Within eight weeks, the first harvest can be clipped. Regular harvesting of the leaves for cooking (or feeding your children during church!) is recommended to keep the plants more compact and easier to handle as they get a little too heavy as they mature. The drawback to this is that the plants do not last as long or produce seed heads. I usually have a few plants in containers on the patio and plant plenty in the garden, which I leave to mature and produce seeds. Dill will self-seed in the fall so you will find new shoots sprouting early in your garden the next spring if you allow some seed heads to mature without harvesting them.
Dill is a native of Southern Europe and Western Asia. Although the origin of the name dill is debatable, it is believed to have originated from the Norse word "dilla", or Anglo Saxon "dylle", meaning "to lull or soothe".It is an ancient herb that was listed by the Egyptians as an herb 5,000 years ago. In the Bible it was so prized that it was listed in the Gospel of St. Matthew, as an herb suitable of payment for taxes, along with mint and cumin. During the Middle Ages Dill was woven into garlands and worn around the neck to ward off witches and their spells. "Meeting House Seed", a name given to the seeds by our Puritan forefathers, was given to their children to chew as a hunger depressant to keep them satisfied during the long sermons as they squirmed on the pews in church!
The herb Dill is very popular in Scandinavian and Polish culinary dishes, being added to everything from vegetables, salads, fish, and sour cream and sauces. It is a classic ingredient in gherkin and other dill pickle recipes, including dilled beans and flavored vinegars used in salad dressings and sauces.
The fresh herb is known for its ability to improve appetite and digestion. When a more intense flavor is desired, the seeds are used to flavor meats such as lamb, soups, stews, and grilled or broiled fish dishes.
Dill is one of the main ingredients in old fashioned "gripe water" which was a traditional remedy for stomach aches, gas and colic in babies and children. It has been a popular remedy for upset stomach, hiccups and insomnia. Dill tea is used in homeopathy to help nursing mothers produce milk flow.
The leaves of this fast growing herb can be harvested after eight weeks in limited quantities for eating fresh, which is when the flavor is at its peak. Regular snipping actually improves the shape of the plant, keeping it from getting "leggy" and top heavy and increasing the yield.
Harvesting seeds requires cutting off the seed heads just as the seeds are starting to set.