In all honesty dill is not an herb I paid much mind to in the past. It was the kind of thing I only consciously ate when dipping chips into the sort of ‘dill dips’ you commonly find at parties. As far as cooking with it, I always seemed to have dried dill on hand, but never actually used it. Until about a year or so ago, one very simple raw recipe I’d found had me use dill to add a bit of flavor and my palate exploded. It was like going to bed when it’s pouring rain, and then waking up to see the sun outside and shining. I asked myself why I’d never considered dill before, and couldn’t come up with an answer. Now of course I’m an avid dill lover, particularly in salad dressings or just to simply sprinkle on vegetables. I often find myself using it very liberally as one might use salt. It’s fabulous, always amazing fresh of course, but even when dried it appears to retain much of it’s flavor. I admit I don’t use the seeds much, but the leaves I love dearly, and now I simply can’t imagine my culinary world without this beautiful, delicious and fragrant herb.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a perennial herb and the sole species of the genus Anethum. It originated in Eastern Europe, though wild types of dill are widespread throughout both the Mediterranean Basin and West Africa. Although sprigs of dill were found in the tomb of Amenhotep II in Egypt as well as in ruins found in Greece, Rome, and Great Britain the earliest archeological evidence of it’s cultivation comes from the late neolithic lakeshore settlements of Switzerland.
Throughout history Dill has been honored for it’s curative properties. It is mentioned in the Bible, and The Talmud, as well as various Ancient Egyptian writings. Hippocrates (The father of medicine) used it in a recipe for cleansing the mouth. Ancient soldiers were known to apply burnt dill seeds to their wounds in the belief that it would promote healing. Even the conqueror Charlemagne believed in the herbs abilities to ease and heal, making it available at all of his banquets so that any guests who indulged too much could benefit from the herbs carminative properties.
The name Dill comes from the Old Norse word dilla, which means ‘to lull’ a name that reflects the traditional use of dill as both a stomach soother and an insomnia reliever. Both the leaves and the seeds of the dill plant are edible and both are used for seasoning food. Sometimes the leaves are referred to as Dillweed to distinguish it from the seeds. Today Dill is most commonly used in the cuisines of Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe, and parts of Northern Africa. It is also used perhaps less frequently in several countries in the Middle East and South East Asia.
Dill’s health benefits come from two types of healing components - monoterpenes, including carvone, limonene, and anethofuran; and flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin.
The monoterpene components of dill provide protection against free radicals and carcinogens by activating the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the anti-oxidant molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise cause damage in the body. The activity of dill’s volatile oils qualify it as a ‘chemoprotective’ food, that can aid in neutralizing particular types of carcinogens. Specifically the benzopyrenes that are found in cigarette smoke, charcoal grill smoke and smoke produced by trash incinerators.
In addition to the aid it provides in protecting against free radical cell damage dill has also been studied for it’s ability to prevent bacterial overgrowth.
Dill is also a good source of calcium containing 5% of your daily value in just 2 tsp. Calcium is of course is important in reducing the bone loss that occurs with aging, especially for woman after menopause.
Dill is a wonderful cooling herb, and it’s something I seem to use with more frequency in the summer then in the winter. I tend to use it most when seasoning simple steamed vegetables, or lightly saute vegetables. I also use it frequently in homemade salad dressings, and dips, it pairs particularly well with a dip based with non-dairy sour cream or non-dairy yogurt. (Such as tzatziki) It’s great in soups, borscht in particular, and pairs lovely with both beets and Brussel’s Sprouts. It’s wonderful in a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and black olives, fantastic in sprucing up your favorite eggless ‘egg’ salad sandwich or your favorite mock ‘tuna’ salad sandwich. Use it as a garnish, simply tear up some sprigs and sprinkle them on any salad, sandwich or wrap for a delicious unique flavor. It works well with a non-dairy based lemon creme sauce, and is also wonderful on pasta. Don’t be afraid to try it in a variety of ways and as always,
Happy and Healthy Eating to you!