Dill is sometimes confused with fennel leaves, but they’re different – with dill having a milder flavour,.
Cooking with Dill imparts a light aniseed taste. It goes well with fish, shellfish, vegetables and in yogurt dips.
You can use both leaves and seeds, although they’re not interchangeable. Add dill leaves at the end of the cooking process to preserve the flavour.
History and Botany
The name ‘dill’ name comes from Old Norse dylla, meaning “to soothe”.
Although it now grows almost everywhere, the herb is native to the Mediterranean and western Asia. Dill was mentioned in ancient Egyptian medical texts as long ago as 3,000 BC. The ancient Greeks believed it was a sign of wealth; for the Romans it was lucky.
In medieval times Dill was believed to have magical properties – and if drinking tea made from dill leaves and other herbs got rid of curses. People burnt dill leaves to calm a thunderstorm and used it with wine and other herbs in love potions. They hung dried dill seed heads in homes, over doorways and babies’ cradles to protect themselves from evil. Give a witch dill tea and it will take away her power to harm you – or so it was believed. Dill symbolized love and protection.
Uses in herbalism and cookery
Dill has a calming effect on the digestive system and contains Vitamin C as well as a rich assortment of minerals, especially calcium. To relieve indigestion, bruise dill seeds and steep them in a cup of boiling water. Leave to infuse for about 20 mins, then strain the liquid and take a tablespoon.
In recipes, one measure of dried dill is equal to three of fresh dill leaves. Culpeper made use of this herb and thought it ‘strengthens the brain’; many folk today regard dill as “brain food”, like fennel seeds.
Dill seed is good in salad dressings; the leaves are excellent in sauces.