The flavor of dill is nearly synonymous with the crunch of a good pickle. (Sorry, bread and butter lovers.) Sitting down to write this produce profile on a day that finally feels like summer, I canâ€™t help but do a little daydreaming about the herb.
Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Itâ€™s fairly straightforward to germinate, doesnâ€™t require much space, can be harvested and eaten at any stage from sprout to seed, and grows in many climates. Its success in your garden will make you feel like you actually know what youâ€™re doing (which is a thing I need to be reminded of now and then).
How to Grow Dill
Dill is in the umbellifer family, along with carrots, celery, fennel and parsnips. Save some space for dill in that section of your garden to practice crop rotation. Dill is also a nice companion plant to asparagus, brassicas, corn, cucumbers, lettuce and onions, according to West Coast Seeds.
Direct-seed into the garden. You can start these seeds in trays in the greenhouse, but I say save your greenhouse space for picky germinators. Sow seeds in rows 18 to 24 inches apart, or break with neat-row tradition and broadcast seeds over a portion of the bed to create a sort of wild-dill patch.
Dill will germinate in one to two weeks.
Let your tiny plants grow for a week after germination, at which point theyâ€™ll need weeding and thinning. I keep mine packed tightly, about 4 inches apart, but youâ€™ll read some advice to thin to as much as 18 inches.
With my plants closer together, I harvest from the patch continually from when they reach about 10 inches in height through flowering. I essentially thin them as I harvest, producing more in less space.
You can succession seed from a few weeks before last frost through late summer to have fresh dill throughout your growing season. Cover plants with row cover and theyâ€™ll make it through a few light frosts, but typically not a freeze.
Keep plants watered as they get established. After that, the plants will thrive with regular watering but probably not die without it.
Check out this recipe for a spicy cucumber dill dip!
How to Use Dill
Pickles, of course, are how you use dill. There are lots of others ways, too.
Dill belongs in veggie dips, adding a fresh flavor to the creaminess of yogurt or sour cream. It makes a fanciful flavoring for breads, including biscuits. I love it with broiled fish, baked potatoes and egg salad.
Being a fan of pestos of all kinds, each year I make a triple batch of dill pesto to freeze and toss with chicken or chickpeas and pasta year-round.
The flowers are beautiful in a bouquet, not to mention handy in any recipe that calls for the herb itself. Chefs love dill flowers, too, because they add such interest to their fancy dishes.
How to Dry Dill
While some herbs (ahem, cilantro and parsley) donâ€™t hold their flavor well during dehydration, dill is all in. Dried, it is excellent to have on hand for winter cooking.
Use a dehydrator to make quick work of drying. Or simply tie your dill in small bunches and hang them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, away from sunlight, for a couple of weeks.
When the stems break instead of bend, theyâ€™re ready to be crumbled and kept in a sealed jar for storage and later use.
How to Collect Dill Seeds
If left to go to seed and not removed from the garden, dill can reseed itself the next year. This is either a nice surprise or a pesky weed, depending on your perspective.
Collect seeds for your kitchen or to plant next year by allowing the flowers to go to seed then dry in the garden. Keep watch, as you donâ€™t want too many of the seeds to fall from the stems. The idea is to cut the stems just before then, when the seeds are dry.
Place the stems, seed-head down, into paper grocery bags and thrash them against the sides. The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bag, along with some chaff. Sort out the seeds from the chaff to your liking (use a fan to winnow the chaff, if this is important to you) and store in a sealed jar.
Such a simple herb with so many great uses, dill earns its place in gardens of all sizes.