Casual, Carefree Dill

| June/July 1998

  • A ripe seed head of dill is a spontaneous sculpture in the garden as it gets ready to toss its seeds to the wind.
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • Dill grows lush and green in early summer, putting out enough frothy foliage to flavor many meals.
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • Massed together in a border, dill plants lend a lacy look to the herbal landscape.
    Photograph by J. G. Strauch, Jr.
  • Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, served here with a hearty whole-grain bread and a cup of cappuccino, is elegant brunch fare.
    Photograph by Joe Coca
  • Beets, dill, and sour cream are the main ingredients of borscht, a classic summer soup served icy cold.
    Photograph by Joe Coca
  • Massed together in a border, dill plants lend a lacy look to the herbal landscape.

For many herb gardeners, dill signals summer’s arrival. Its feathery fronds, so wispy and insubstantial through the vacillations of spring weather, now put on a bold display, growing at breathtaking speed and flushing into a tall, fernlike mass. Indeed, their carefree, lacy appearance is almost a metaphor for lazy, sun-baked days in the backyard. Perhaps that’s one reason dill assumes such prominence in summer foods. Can you imagine barbecues or picnics without dill-spiked potato salads, deviled eggs, or pickles?

Dill Recipes: 

• Avocados Filled with Prawns
• Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
• Maroulosalata
• Creamy Iced Borscht
• Grilled Salmon
• Asparagus Quiche
• Dilled Green Beans with Olives 

Dill In The Kitchen

Dill offers two variations on one flavor theme. The foliage, called dill weed, tastes crisp, fresh, and herbaceous like parsley but with added sweet-citrusy notes. The seeds, which develop later in the season, have a stronger flavor—more aromatic, minty, medicinal, and pungent.

The difference in flavor between the leaves and the seeds results from the differing composition of their essential oils. The seed oil, which constitutes 2 to 5 percent of the weight of the seeds, consists mainly of d-carvone and limonene, compounds that also dominate the oil—and thus the flavor—of caraway seeds. The two kinds of seeds are interchangeable in many recipes.

Dill weed contains roughly a third as much essential oil as the seeds, and its oil contains less of the rather strident carvone and limonene; these are replaced in part by the fresh and faintly minty alpha-phellandrene.

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