Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spice University - Dill

A Little Spice of Life
From The Colonel

Dill Anethum graveolens

Dill means pickling and so much more

Dill weed has been around for thousands of years. Romans in the first century were convinced that dill brought good luck. The name dill, probably came from the Saxon word dillan, to lull, for its ability to soothe colicky babies and for the Greek tradition of covering the head with dill leaves to induce sleep.

Dill leaves have a flavor that is pungent and slightly tangy, almost caraway tasting. Dill is one of the best complements for many foods not to mention their importance to dill pickles. Fresh leaves loose their flavor quickly when being cooked. For this reason it is always best to add them as near the end of the cooking cycle as possible. The herb is sold as both fresh and dried. There is quite a difference between the flavor of fresh and dried dill weed. While heat is the enemy of fresh and dried dill leaves, it brings out the flavor of the seeds. Dill seed, actually the fruit of the herb, are more strong and pungent than their counterpart, leaves. Dill seeds are the part of the dill plant used most often in its namesake dill pickles.

The characteristic, sweet taste of dill is popular all over Europe, Western, Central and Southern Asia. In Europe, it is mostly used for bread, vegetable (especially cucumber), pickles, and fish; for the last application, the leaves are preferred. It is also indispensable for herb flavored vinegars.

In North Eastern Europe and Russia, dill is popular for pickled vegetables, which are produced in great variety, usually by pickling in vinegar. Fresh dill sprigs are mandatory in most recipes of that kind. In these regions with long, cold winters, preserved vegetables are an important source of vitamins and fresh flavor for the otherwise dull winter diet. Dill is also one of the few herbs used in the cooking of the Baltic states, where chopped dill is a frequent decoration on various foods (e.g., boiled potatoes), similar to the use of parsley and chives in other European countries.

Fresh dill leaves (dill weed) is a kind of “national spice” in Scandinavian countries, where fish or shellfish dishes are usually either directly flavored with dill or served together with sauces containing dill. German cooks also tend to use dill mostly for fish soups and stews. Dill reached the Northern latitudes probably via medieval monasteries, where it was grown as a medicinal herb.

Dill has, however, retained its popularity in its original homeland, Asia. Dried dill shows up in Georgia's (Russian Georgia not the US Georgia) famous spice mixture, khmeli-suneli and is also quite popular in Iran, where dill weed is usually employed for bean dishes, e.g., rice with boiled lima beans, baghali polo.

In India, however, dried dill fruits are occasionally used to flavor the lentil and bean dishes known as dal.


Dill Lemon Cod or Salmon
Carrot Sticks and Dill
Marinated Vegetable Salad

Colonel De Stewart

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