Among the most flavorful, versatile, and easiest of herbs to grow in a home garden is dill weed.
There is nothing better than going out to your garden and hand picking the fresh herbs and vegetables you plan to serve for dinner that night. Whether you are preparing a newly harvested vegetable as a side dish, or adding twigs of a fresh herb to your main course, your palate will surely thank you for your homegrown efforts.
Fresh dill is an awesome addition to grilled salmon and other fish dishes. It is also a wonderful compliment to boiled red potatoes and is a must in German potato salad. Of course, it is best known as a pickling additive and thus, is great tossed into just about any cucumber recipe. After growing season has passed, it is easy to keep a little “fresh” dill on hand by chopping it finely and freezing it with a tad of water in an ice cube tray. When you are ready to use it in a winter dish, just defrost an ice cube or toss it directly into your soups and dips!
Surprisingly, dill is loaded with calcium and contains a pretty good amount of iron and manganese too. In ancient times, its seed was chewed to calm stomach ailments and boiled into a tonic to relieve colic in newborns. Today, herbalists continue to use dill in their carminative preparations.
Are you convinced yet that you should plant dill? If not, read on, as there are even more reasons to do so!
Whether you like the flavor and aroma of dill or not, it is a great plant to include in your vegetable AND flower gardens regardless. It is very attractive in physical appearance, as it has dainty, fern-like stems and umbrella-like yellow flowers. Its feathery stems mimic the softening aspect of an asparagus fern when used in ornamental containers, plantings and pots – just remember to purchase a dwarf variety if possible. However, if planting dill with taller ornamentals such as coleus or Shasta Daisies, the typical 36 inch height of dill may not be a factor.
Black Swallowtail Larva
Dill’s aroma and flavor is also very attractive to insects. The draw of insects to the garden may not seem like such a wise idea, but actually dill’s attractiveness to insects serves a dual purpose for the gardener. Its aroma entices beneficial pollinating insects, such as butterflies and bees, to your garden that will, in turn, assist in fertilizing the blooms of other vegetables. Dill also serves as a host plant for a range of caterpillars. The larva of the Black Swallowtail butterfly (see below) is especially attracted to dill and its plant relatives. If you plant dill, the Black Swallowtail caterpillars will come, I promise! The plant serves to keep the caterpillar and hornworm appetites in check and far away from your other producing vegetables.
Although you can probably find starter plants at the nursery, you can most certainly grow dill from seed. It is best sown shallowly into the soil where it can enjoy at least 6 hours of sunlight. As I mentioned earlier, most varieties grow to up to three feet tall, so plan your dill patch accordingly with regard to the placement of your other herbs and vegetables in the garden. Throughout the summer, I typically toss dill seed into the garden every 3 weeks or so to ensure there is always fresh dill available for me, the animals and the insects. After all, a little dill goes a long way and we can certainly plant enough to share, right?
In fact, my gardening mantra is this: Better to sow enough food to share with Mother Nature than to sow a season of frustration and resentment!
Until next time,