Growing, Drying And Using Homemade Dill

Adding dill to your herb garden will create rich and easy rewards. With little care and attention, you can enjoy recipes, condiments, and dried displays for yourself or to share with friends and family.

Dill, Anethum graveolens, is a tender, annual herb typically grown for its cooking and pickling benefits. With a little attention and minor green-thumb abilities, you can enjoy dips, salads, and breads, secure in the knowledge that you've created it all.

Dill grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. The plant requires 6-8 hours of full sunlight and will grow leggy and tall. Select a location that is at the back of a garden, and one that is protected from high winds. The stalks of dill are hollow and may need staking so have supplies available. After the danger of a spring frost has passed, sow seeds directly into the ground at the selected site. Dill does not transplant easily, so plan ahead. Set the seeds ΒΌ" deep in rows approximately 2 feet across. Water and lightly fertilize; no other fertilization should be necessary. When seedlings are 2 inches high, then them to stand 12 inches apart. Keep the soil relatively moist and free of weeds. Watch for insects, but typically herbs are not their first meal selection. Several crops of dill can be planted and utilized throughout the summer by planting seeds every 2-3 weeks. Dill will reach for the sky and unveil an umbrella-like flower cluster. It can be harvested anytime during the growing season, but for the best flavor, cut just before the foliage opens. Dill loses its flavor quickly so use it as soon as possible after harvest. Large quantities can be chopped into small pieces and frozen in plastic containers for future use.

To harvest dill seeds for the following year, cut the foliage just before the seeds begin to turn a tan color. Hang the stalks upside down in a warm room away from sunlight. Place a paper lunch bag around the flower heads using a rubber band to fasten it to the stalk. Poke a few holes in the sides of the bag to prevent mold. As the seeds ripen, they will drop and collect on the bottom of the bag. Store the seeds in an airtight container and breakout next spring.

To dry dill, cut the stalk and/or foliage into same-size lengths. Wash thoroughly in water, adding soap only if pesticides were used. Dry well with a towel and fasten a bunch together at one end with a rubber band or string. Hang in a cool, dry location free of humidity, sunlight and fumes - basements and garages may not be the best location. Attics or closets work very well and can add a pleasant scent as a benefit. Leave the bunches for about two week or until sufficiently dry. Though the color may have faded, the flavor is just the same. Break off pieces of the dried herbs and put them in glass containers; try not to crumble them as that will promote lose of flavor and fragrance. Once you've grown and dried your own herbs and have found the ease and pleasure of it - you'll learn to skip the herb section of your grocery store.

Using dill in your kitchen or as gifts to friends will be a pleasure. Try a few of these ideas:

Cut three cups of fresh dill, wash and place in a pocket of aluminum foil. Add a small amount of oil and top with fish and/or vegetables. Wrap and place on the grill until tender.

Use fresh dill as a base for serving appetizers or as a fill for a platter; don't forget the flower - it makes a great centerpiece for any picnic.

Fresh dill added to a pickle recipe will make the flavors pop. Wrap homemade pickles (made from homegrown cucumbers/bean and dill) and present to envious neighbors.

Mix dried dill into sour cream or dips. It's a great match for fresh cucumber and onions, dried or fresh.

Add to a bread recipe and serve warm with melting butter.

Add to white vinegar (including the flower) and allow to sit for a month or so and you'll have dill-flavored vinegars for delicious dressings.

Dry the foliage and spray with gold spray paint. Add to a grapevine or evergreen wreath for your front door.

Add dill to your garden and enjoy the many rich rewards.

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