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Anethum graveolens L. 1753
proinounced: uh-NEE-thum grah-vee-OH-lenz
(Apiaceae – the celery family)
synonym: Peucedanum graveolens (L.) C.B.Clarke 1879
proinounced: pew-KED-an-um grah-vee-OH-lenz
common name: Dill
Anethum is the Latin word for dill and anise, borrowed from the Greek ανηθον (anethon); graveolens is Latin for ‘strong-smelling’. This is the only plant in the Anethum genus. In the synonym, Peucedanum is from the Greek πευκεδανον (peukedanon), sulphur-wort, Peucedanum officinale.
Dill originated somewhere in the southern Mediterranean region, probably as early as 3000 BC. It was a popular herb for its medicinal properties, and aided the digestion and soothed the stomachs of the Assyrians, and later the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. Several twigs of dill were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Amenhotep II (c. 1400 BC), and there is earlier evidence of its cultivation in the late Neolithic lake shore settlements in Switzerland. Traces have also been found in Roman settlements in England.
The name dill comes from the Old English dile, which may have originated from a Norse word dylle, to soothe or lull.
The plant grows to about 60 cm tall, with slender hollow stems and alternate, finely divided, softly delicate leaves up to about 20 cm long. The ultimate leaf divisions are 1 – 2 mm broad, slightly broader than the similar leaves of fennel, which are threadlike, but harder in texture. The flowers are white to yellow, in umbels up to about 9 cm (sometimes more) in diameter. The seeds are 4 – 5 mm long and about 1 mm thick, straight to slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface.
Fresh and dried dill leaves are used as herbs, mainly in Sweden, the Baltic, in Russia and in central Asia. The aromatic leaves are used to flavour many foods, and are best when used fresh. The flowers are sometimes used in pickles. Dill seed is used as a spice, and was traditionally used to settle the stomach after meals. Dill oil can be extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds.
The seed is harvested by cutting the flower-heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. The seed heads are placed upside-down in a paper bag and left for a week in a warm dry place. The seeds then easily separate from the stems for storage in an airtight container.
When used as a companion planting, dill draws in many beneficial insects as the flower-heads go to seed. It is a good companion for cucumbers, asparagus, the Brassicas, lettuces and onions. However, it is a poor companion plant for carrots: both plants are Apiaceae, and can cross-pollinate. The growth and health of tomatoes will improve from being planted near young dill; but, once the dill has matured, it will stunt the growth of the tomatoes and should be moved. Dill also attracts the tomato horn worm, Manduca quinquemaculata.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2012
Page last updated 14th July 2018