What is Dill?
Dill is a fresh and grassy herb which also provides seeds which are a favourite spice of northern Europe and Scandinavia. It's perhaps best known for flavouring pickled cucumbers but it’s light anise flavours are great in much more.
What does Dill taste like?
Fresh dill has a grassy herbal flavour with undertones of menthol and anise. The seeds also carry this anise flavour with fresh menthol notes. It is similar tasting to caraway but with a slightly more musky character.
What is Dill used for?
For a fresh herb dill is surprisingly potent because of this it makes it an excellent garnish for salads and sandwiches, providing flavour and colour. The cured salmon dish Gravlax is flavoured with fresh dill. The Eastern European soup borscht is often flavoured with dill as well as a litany of other herbs. Fresh dill is often mixed with cream or dairy to create herby sauces or remoulades which are used across Europe but particularly in Scandinavia.
The most well known use for dill is probably the eponymous dill pickle. Dill pickles, or Gherkins, are small cucumbers pickled in a salty, vinegar brine and flavoured with dill seeds. Dill is a fantastic flavouring for all sort of pickled vegetables, we recently made some fantastic pickled carrots and parsnips using dill and black pepper. Across Scandinavia dill is used in the pickling of foods, from vegetables to fish, as the harsh winters made food preservation all the more important.
Names and origins
Dill is a short fern-like herb which grows up to 60cm in height. It grows across Europe and Asia where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. Like many herbs and spices, dill held spiritual value to the ancient Egyptians and has been found in the tombs of pharaohs dating back as far as 1500 BCE.
Dill’s scientific name, Anethum graveolens, comes from the latin for both dill and anise, anisum became the term for anise and anethum for dill. The origins of the word dill are harder to define, the word exists in many germanic and proto germanic languages but its origins are unclear. In the Middle East dill seeds are often known as ain jaradeh or “grasshoppers eye”.
While there are no confirmed health uses for dill, it has been found to have antimicrobial effects on several species of bacteria and yeasts.