Dill is almost too good to be true: It’s pretty, it smells good, it tastes good, it’s pleasant to the touch, and it’s useful in the kitchen and the garden. The lacy blue-green foliage is elegant, the bright yellow flower clusters hold their own in a vase, and it’s lightly aromatic. The annual herb is cook’s choice not just in pickles, but also in breads, salads, flavored vinegars, and vegetable and fish dishes. Dill attracts beneficial insects to the garden, and is larval food for at least one butterfly. The International Herb Association has slated dill to be the herb of the year in 2010.
Common name: Dill
Botanical name: Anethum graveolens
Plant type: Annual
Zones: Annual in all zones
Height: 2 to 4 feet
· Sun: Full sun
· Soil: Average, well-drained
· Moisture: Average to moist
· Mulch: Mulch as you would a vegetable garden: a few inches thick, using straw, grass clippings, leaves, or other organic materials.
· Pruning: None needed.
· Fertilizer: If desired, apply a bit of 5-10-5 fertilizer in the spring.
· By seed
Pests and diseases
· Leaf spot and other fungal diseases
· Food source for the caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly
· In addition to providing food for the black swallowtail caterpillar (also called the parsleyworm), dill attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs, bees, spiders, and wasps.
· To grow dill in a container, choose a pot that’s at least 10 inches deep with holes for drainage. Don’t let the container dry out—keep the soil moist.
· Cut the bright yellow umbrella-shaped flower clusters for an indoor display.
· Both dill leaves (called dill weed) and the seed (technically, fruit) of dill plants are used as seasonings. Fresh leaves are more potent than dried leaves. Cut leaves just before the flowers open and use or freeze as soon as possible.
· ‘Long Island Mammoth’ is the standard. It’s the cultivar you’re most likely to find in a seed catalog; commercial growers also use it.
· ‘Dukat’ (also called ‘Tetra’) has lush foliage.
· ‘Bouquet’ has blue-green leaves and blooms early.
All in the family
· Carrots, parsley, fennel, cumin, and caraway are also members of the Apiaceae family (also known as the Umbelliferae family), as is the wildflower Queen Anne’s lace.
· Dill is native to Asia and the Mediterranean; it has naturalized in the United States.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Anethum graveolens by Tracy Poser)