Saturday, July 20, 2002

Dill adds delight to kitchen, garden

By Tim Morehouse
Enquirer contributor

        Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the parsley family, has been a favorite culinary herb for centuries. Native to southern Europe, it is a staple in Greek cooking and common in Scandinavian and German food.

        A friend told me that in the Ukraine the appearance of dill seedlings in the garden signals the arrival of spring — much like the first robin here. The tiny dill leaves are harvested, along with blades of chives, and the two are sauteed in sweet butter for a sauce “to pour over everything.”

        Common garden dill grows 3-5 feet tall, but you can plant dwarf versions that reach 24-to-36 inches. Dill's distinguishing feature is its narrow foliage. Its nickname “dillweed” refers to the multiple, feathery, bluish-green heads that branch from the hollow main stalks.

        Dill is an annual but self-sows so freely (the seeds winter over in the garden) that the seedlings spring up everywhere — even in the perennial border where its fern-like foliage provides a soft background for other sun-loving plants. I like to muddle things up a bit in my borders, so if an herb looks good where it volunteers to grow, I let it be.

        In the garden, dill attracts beneficial insects, including bees, parasitic wasps and tachnid flies. In orchards, it attracts insects that control codling moths and tent caterpillars. Wherever dill blooms it contributes to the welfare of neighboring plants.

    • Cut flowers of dill add interest to summer flower arrangements.
    • Plant dill near cabbage, cucumbers and lettuce to prevent harmful insects.
    • Shepherd's Garden Seeds, Torrington, Conn. Free catalog: (860) 482-3638.
    • Johnny's Select Seeds, Albion, Maine. Free catalog: (207) 437-4301.
        Sow dill seeds directly into the garden in rows, tracing a shallow 1/4- to 1/2-inch trench in the soil with a stick or pencil. Then dribble the tiny seeds into the row. Water immediately. You will see sprouts in 10-14 days.

        • “Fernleaf” is a 1992 All America Selections program winner. This dwarf dill reaches only 18 inches tall, so it needs no staking. Fernleaf is excellent for container planting.

        • “Dukat,” also known as “Tetra,” is grown for its abundant foliage. It's perfect for salads. Sow seed in clumps for best results.

        • “Siperdukat” has tall, more uniformly straight stems for easy harvesting.

        • “Bouquet” is an early bloomer that sports large seed heads and dark blue-green foliage. It's ideal for pickling.

       Contact Tim Morehouse by Web site:; mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer. (If writing, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)


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