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All About Dill
by Sandra Bowens
Seed or weed? Consumed either way, dill is unique yet familiar. The flat, oval dill seed is pungent and imparts a far sharper flavor than the subtle, feathery dill leaf or, more commonly, dill weed. While there is no substitute for dill, the seed makes an excellent stand-in for salt.
The plant is native to southern Europe and a member of the parsley family. The name is derived from the Norse word dilla, meaning to lull, because it is said to have digestive and sedative qualities. The highest quality dill seed is cultivated in India. Egypt exports a great deal of dill weed but that from California is considered cleaner and greener.
Dill, or Anethum graveolens, is an easy to grow annual. It is best to start from seed as the plant's long taproot resists transplanting. Dill likes full sun and moist, well-drained soil. For harvesting, until the plants are about five inches high, you should pinch the leaves down to the base of the plant. As it grows snip the fronds at the point where they are emerging from the stalk. The plant will usually grow to about two feet although it may go to three.
Near the end of its brief growing season, the dill plant will send up flowers. If you want to harvest the seeds, allow the flowers to open and begin to turn brown before trimming them off. Bundle the heads together and place into a paper bag securing it closed around the stems with a rubber band. Allow the flowers to dry then shake the seeds loose within the bag so that it will catch them. If you would prefer to have a longer season for your dill weed, simply snip off the flower buds as they form so the plant can put its energy into foliage production An old tradition is to plant dill seeds at the same time as the cucumber seeds so that they are ready at the same time.
It is the seed that we know so well from pickles. Dill weed enhances the flavors of a dish as well as compliments other herbs when combined. The seed has a tendency to dominate. Both are exceptional with vegetables, fish and mustard based dressings or sauces. The seeds and herb are also a flavorful addition to breads and other baked goods
Dill is common in Russian, German and Scandinavian cooking among many others. The bright green color of the herb is an attractive addition to noodles and rice or mixed into sour cream with other herbs to be served as a dip. To retain the most flavor from the herb, add near the end of the cooking process.
To store fresh dill weed, wrap loosely in plastic and keep in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for three or four days.
Considered a symbol of good luck by first century Romans, dill has also been thought to possess magical properties. Over the centuries it has been used to guard against witchcraft, in medicines and in love potions.
Dilled and Deviled Eggs
1 dozen boiled eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons dill relish (see note)
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 dashes jalapeno hot sauce, if desired
1 teaspoon dried dill weed, for garnish
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise (a knife dipped in hot water makes this job easier).
Remove yolks and place in a medium mixing bowl. Mash yolks lightly with a fork. Add sour cream, mustard, relish, salt, pepper and hot sauce, if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Using a pastry bag or two spoons, stuff the egg yolk mixture into the hollow of the egg whites. Arrange stuffed eggs on a serving platter and sprinkle with the dill weed. (If you don't have one of those nifty plates with the indentations for the eggs, you might want to line the serving plate with shredded lettuce or arugula leaves--or both--to keep the eggs from sliding around.)
Makes 2 dozen deviled eggs
NOTE: Dill relish is a commercially prepared product usually sold alongside pickles and other condiments. If it isn't available, you could substitute finely minced dill pickles.
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