Dill is one of those versatile herbs that go well in a wide array of dishes. Any soup is better with it, scrambled eggs take on a whole new persona, and mashed potatoes gain a savory warmth. Fish is enhanced, as is any type of poultry. Of course, pickles wouldn’t be pickles without a liberal sprinkling of dill seeds. Egg salad, tuna salad, cream cheese, creamed cucumber and onions… The list is long when considering all the dishes dill has the capacity to transform.
Like so many other food- or medicine-based plants, dill originated in the Mediterranean region, specifically southern Russia and West Africa. An annual in the carrot family, dill has a feathery, wispy appearance that makes it a lovely addition to any garden, especially the herb portion. The piquant fragrance it exudes hints at the flavor it provides.
Growing dill at home requires little or no work – just a few basics. The seeds sprout quickly and can be sown directly because they don’t like being transplanted. They need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day, in a low or protected area if possible, because the tall stalks can be knocked down in high winds.
Even small sprouts exude the warm dill fragrance. (For a summer of fresh dill, plant a few more seeds every two to three weeks). Simply gather the feathery fronds and chop for individual dishes, or cut them in “bouquets” and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Dry thoroughly before storing in an air-tight glass jar for up to a year.
Dill seeds appear embedded within star-like yellow flowers that appear when the herb begins wrapping up the season. Use the same drying method as for the leaf, only attach a paper bag around the flower head after hanging to catch the seeds as they dry and fall off. Poke a few holes along the opening to keep them dry, and they can be stored using the same method as the leaves.
Health Benefits of Dill
Dill is one of the ancient herbs of the Bible, and is mentioned in 5,000-year-old Egyptian manuscripts regarding its medicinal use. A few teaspoons in a cup of boiling water was used as a tea to soothe infants with colic, to calm nerves, soothe upset stomachs, and promote sleep. Chewing the seeds has been used as a breath freshener, to ease menstrual pain, and increase milk flow in nursing mothers.
Although the one-ounce serving indicated in the nutritional profile is way more than what you’d eat even in an entire day, it’s an indication of the nutritional aspects dill offers if you used a teaspoon or two in your scrambled eggs. One ounce offers 43 percent of the vitamin A you need in a day, and 40 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin C. You also get 18 percent of the manganese, 11 percent of the folate, and 10 percent of the iron. What that does for the body is a lot.
The calcium in dill alone is very impressive: one tablespoon of dill seed contains more calcium than one-third cup of milk. Dill contains excellent amounts of other phytonutrients such as fiber, niacin, phosphorus, copper, riboflavin, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium, but more concentrated compounds offer health benefits as well. Two of them are flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin, and the monoterpenes carvone, limonene, and anethofuran.
One of the attributes of dill is the way its oils discourage bacteria, but it also protects against cancer. The enzyme glutathione-S-transferase helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules to prevent damage, making them antioxidants. Volatile oil of dill seeds has been deemed "chemoprotective," and help neutralize the carcinogens most of us encounter on a daily basis, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and automobile exhaust. For the cancer-preventive abilities in these compounds, read on.
Dill Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), fresh
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Dill
Three monoterpenes – anethofuran, carvone, and limonene – were determined to have chemopreventive effects in a study on the oils from dill weed and caraway. These compounds were found to induce the detoxifying enzyme glutathione S-transferase and appeared to be critical for high enzyme-inducing activity.1
The essential oil extracted from dill seeds was examined in one study for their potential as an eco-friendly antifungal agent source. To explain its antifungal mechanism, the effect of dill essential oil on the plasma membrane and mitochondria (which convert energy into forms the cells can use) of Aspergillus flavus (a pathogen producing the carcinogen aflatoxin) was investigated, and a lesion found in the plasma membrane. Scientists concluded that the antifungal activity of dill oil resulted from its ability to disrupt the permeability barrier of the plasma membrane and from the mitochondrial dysfunction-induced ROS accumulation in A. flavus.2
Dill Healthy Recipes:
Spinach, Dill, and Strawberry Salad
|2 pounds fresh spinach
||1 bunch green onions, chopped
||½ cup toasted, slivered almonds
|1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
||¼ cup chopped fresh dill
|½ cup extra virgin olive oil
||¼ cup red wine vinegar
||¼ cup sugar
|2 cloves minced garlic
||¼ teaspoon salt
||¼ teaspoon ground pepper
|¼ teaspoon dry mustard
||¼ teaspoon onion powder
- At least two hours before serving, whisk the oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, dry mustard, and onion powder until blended, and then cover and chill.
- In a large salad bowl, toss the spinach, green onions, almonds, strawberries, and dill. Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss.
Dill Fun Facts
Legend has it that Charlemagne kept dill on hand as a remedy for guests who ate and drank too much, and that Hippocrates had a dill recipe for oral hygiene.
Dill is an ancient herb with all kinds of amazing qualities, and not just in the kitchen. Not only does it make an amazing dip and secret ingredient in egg salad, but it also contains healing properties known for centuries. The Egyptians used it for everything: from calming colicky babies, calming the nerves, and soothing upset stomachs.
Modern medicine has found dill to contain such vitamins and minerals as vitamins A, C, and B6, fiber, calcium, iron, manganese, and folate, as well as more obscure compounds that could fight not just bacteria, but cancer, such as the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase due to the presence of the monoterpenes anethofuran, carvone, and limonene, and the healing flavonoids kaempferol and vicenin.
Dill is an easy herb to grow in an indoor pot or outdoor herb garden, but even if you purchase this herb in its dried form to add to your scrambled eggs or potato soup, you’ll advance your health, and not just enhance your culinary expertise.