Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Growing and Using Herbs, part 2: Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the carrot family, 
and is valued both for its flavorful foliage and for its 
pungent seeds. As annuals, dill plants die each year, 
but their seeds can winter over in the soil to pop up the 
following year. Dill grows well in gardens throughout 
zones 3-10.

When growing from seed, reduce crowding by pulling 
up weak, spindly sprouts to allow 2 to 6 inches of space 
between them. Dill prefers fairly moist soil throughout 
the growing season. Once plants have established good 
root systems, water only when rainfall is sparse if your 
soil is decent and mulched. In thin, poor and unmulched 
soil, dill needs watering a couple of times a week when 
it does not rain. If possible, avoid overhead watering in 
favor of a drip or porous hose system. Spread mulch on 
the soil around the plants when they are about 6 inches 
tall to discourage weeds.Dill is fast-growing enough that 
some of its foliage is mature enough to harvest in only 
eight weeks. Plan to sow crops in succession, three weeks 
apart, for a good supply over the entire growing season. 
Dill does best in full sun (with a bit of afternoon shade 
in the South). While fairly tolerant of poor soil conditions, 
it prefers a sandy or loamy soil that drains well. It is a 
light feeder, so extra fertilizer is not necessary in 
reasonably fertile soil. It’s easiest to sow seeds directly 
into the garden in rows, ¼ to ½ inch deep. Firm soil 
over the seeds and water gently. For a more naturalistic 
planting, scatter the seeds over a patch of ground; cover 
with 1/2 inch of soil, and water. Space plants 8 to 10 
inches apart if harvesting leaves, or 10 to 12 inches apart 
if harvesting seed. If transplanting starts, take great pains 
to avoid disturbing the taproot that has formed. Dill can 
also be grown in containers and the dwarf varieties are 
especially suited for this use.

Harvesting and Storing Dill

Dill leaves taste best picked just before flowers form. 
Start picking the leaves as soon as they are large 
enough to use. Pick early in the morning or in the late 
evening, clipping close to the stem. If you wish to 
harvest dill seed, allow flowers to form then go to seed. 
Cut the seedheads when the majority of seeds have 
formed–about 2 to 3 weeks after the blossoming starts. 
Hang the seed heads upside down in a paper bag. 
The seeds will fall into the bag when they mature and 
dry out. Freshly picked dill leaves will keep for 
several days in the refrigerator if placed in a jar of 
water and covered with plastic. They store for several 
months if layered with pickling salt in a covered jar 
in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the 
leaves, simply wash them and use them as fresh. 
For longer storage, dry by hanging bunches of stems 
upside down in a dark, dry, airy place until they are 
crumbly. Store them in a tightly sealed jar away from 
light and use within 4 to 6 months. Or use a food 
dehydrator according to instructions. Freeze dill by 
cutting the leaves–long stems and all–into sections 
short enough to fit into plastic bags. Do not chop the 
leaves. Keep in the freezer up to 6 months.

No comments: