An ancient herb with a wide footprint Dill is indigenous to Eastern Europe. Dried dill has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, Roman ruins and Neolithic (new stone age) lake shore settlements in Switzerland. Viking lore also has them growing a plant they referred to as “dilla” that was used as a treatment for colic in small children.
More recently dill has become more popular throughout Southeastern Asia and India and has been wildly popular with western European cooks for years. In the US, it is no longer pigeon holed as a regional herb, but is now considered a main stream herb. Dill is indigenous to the southern Mediterranean and is also now grown in England, northern India, Japan, Poland, Scandinavia, Turkey and the US. Our Dill Weed is cultivated in Egypt.
In the US we consume an average of 9 lbs of pickles per person per year. It is here where we are probably most familiar with dill weed – it is the “dill” in the dill pickle. We also know it as a key ingredient with its recognizable crisp flavor when paired with fish.
While part of the same plant dill weed and dill seed are vastly different and experienced chefs would never substitute one for the other. Dill weed, also known as dill herb or leaf dill, refers to the stem and leaf of the plant while dill seed is the fruit of the plant. Dill seeds are most often thought of as a spice while dill weed is considered an herb. The seeds have a much more powerful flavor.
European cooks consider dill weed to be a key herb and use it liberally in salads, sauces, spreads, soups and especially in fish dishes. The Greek use dill weed to season a summer cucumber salad called Tzadziki. This herb plays a starring role in German potato soup and cabbage dishes. As mentioned earlier dill weed’s real claim to fame is the dill pickle (and along with dill seed is used in pickling), but it’s also outstanding with breads, fish, dips, gravies, sauces and in salads (especially coleslaw, macaroni and potato), salad dressings, chicken, egg and meat dishes.
Dill weed also pairs exceptionally well with chunky vegetables like beets, beans, carrots and fennel as well as delicate leafy greens. On the dark side of the healthy scale dill is outstanding with butter, cream cheese and sour cream.
Dill weed also has gained a solid reputation in the recent cross over sensation of savory sweets and brilliantly plays the supporting role when paired with lemon when the baker is looking to mute the syrup-soaked sweetness of sponge cakes, sweet and delicate sorbets and other citrus dominated desserts. For desserts we recommend you only use a little to start as it can easily overpower the dish.
Dill weed’s flavor is a combination of anise, celery and parsley while its aroma is a blend of anise and lemon. The modern sophistication of the dehydration process allows dried dill weed to stay spectacularly green and quite flavorful. This resulting subtle flavor and brilliant color of the dill weed herb enhance rather than dominate a dish.
Dill weed partners well with basil, garlic, horseradish, mustard, paprika and parsley.
Helpful hint – it’s best adding dill weed toward the end of the cooking process, and use it in recipes that require little or no cooking as the longer dill weed cooks the more flavor it and you’ll miss its peak taste. For this reason, dill weed is usually used in fast-cooking sauces, dressings and salads. Dill seed on the other hand is added to dishes that have longer cooking times.