Dill resembles a delicate version of fennel and has many uses.
Anethum graveolens is a half hardy annual. It is similar to fennel both in looks and flavour, although it’s more delicate in both respects. The leaves are delicate and feathery and the flowers are yellow and produced in umbels. The flavour is of aniseed. It is grown from seed that should be sown in spring. A wide spacing is required and the area must be kept free of weeds as dill cannot cope with competition. Rich soil in full sun with shelter from wind will give the best results.
The leaves and seeds are used to flavour fish dishes, the leaves are also used in salad, as a garnish to smoked salmon and added to new potatoes in place of mint. The seeds are often added to pickles and vinegars. It combines particularly well with pickled cucumbers and has the advantage of making them more digestible. This herb is most popular in Scandinavia, where it is an important flavouring ingredient.
Medicinally, it is the seeds which are most valuable. Dill aids digestion, cures flatulence and is soothing, making it good for calming babies. For this reason, it is included in gripe water. If you have no children, then you may prefer to put it to its traditional use as a constituent of love potions, or simply keep it handy to ward off the evil eye.
The leaves are best gathered before the plant begins to flower and used fresh, although they may be preserved in vinegar. The seeds should be gathered as soon as they are ripe and may be dried. They will remain useful for cookery and medicinally and stay viable for several years.