Sage Advice About Herbs: Dill, Garden To Kitchen

From Feathery Fronds To Dinner In Minutes

How to be successful growing dill for the kitchen. The Norse said Dyla was soothing; the Romans thought it was lucky, and the Egyptians used it for medicine. We have their writings about using it in 3000 BC. If you grow Dill and cook with it, you will be in good company! It’s Dill-Anethum gravolens, and it is in the celery family, Apiaceae.

What Is Dill And How Did We Get It?

dill growing in the garden for the kitchen

Dill is a tall herb with feathery green foliage and its seeds that are famous for pickle making. It is native to the Mediterranean area and southern Russia. People have made good use of it for thousands of years. Today it is widely cultivated in Europe, North America, and India.

Here is how to grow Dill in the garden and cook with it. We love it in soup, salad, fish, sandwiches and of course pickles. Americans eat 2.5 billion pounds of them in a year, and the most popular pickle variety is dill. The plant is a warm-season biennial with profuse seeds. It can come back for years. Dill is not difficult to grow if you know the most critical facts. It suits many gardens, and you can raise it in the planting bed or deep pots.

What Does It Taste Like?

It has a licorice-like taste, not dissimilar to that of fennel. You will also notice a slight citrus hint. If you are a lover of carrots, try them glazed with dill. The herb makes dull vegetables interesting. It is an excellent enhancement to cucumber, zucchini, and summer squash. My husband, who spent far too much of his life traveling for business-hates zucchini! He says he would go from country to country, hotel to hotel, and the only stable fact was wet, limp zucchini at dinner. I amuse myself with new uses of zucchini.

Try dill if you are a fan of coldwater fish such as salmon or herring. I will include my favorite, and surprisingly easy, gravlax. You will see many recipes for lamb with lemon dill sauce. I have a quick potato salad with lemon and dill, and if you are a fan of Greek cooking, dill with Tzatziki sauce is a natural.

A Few Recipes To Try In Your Kitchen-How To Cook With It

My Favorite Gravlax

gravlax served with dill

Gravlax is a favorite appetizer in our house. By now I make it often because people come into the house, expecting it! I am hardly alone; people have been making Gravlax at least since the 14th century. If you remember from school that in the Middle Ages, salt was an expensive commodity, in Norway and Sweden of the time, fishermen could find salmon, but preservation was the problem. They started by digging a hole on the beach and burying the fish. By the 18th century, if you traveled in high society anywhere in Europe, particularly in France, you were served plenty of Gravlax. Not so much for low society.

So, over 400 years, Gravlax went from being the food of the peasantry to the food of the fashion leaders. The lesson, of course, is to eat up, who knows what can happen in our time! Fortunately, salt is now readily available, and that makes Gravlax an accessible luxury.

How I Learned-How To Make It

I am a true New England Yankee, which makes me a seafood lover. However, we have lived in the South for a long time and are well acclimated. In this region, a popular grocery store chain is Publix Market, and in some towns, they run an excellent cooking school. Their instructors are very good at teaching recipes and finding ideas that make the customers look like better cooks than they really are. I have long since lost the paper recipe, but here is how it goes.

Gravlax Recipe

It is so simple, I am a little sorry to admit the fact.

  • Start with a fillet of salmon, I leave the skin on and try to choose one as even in-depth as possible. Have your fillet cut in half; this will make you a top and a bottom for the curing.
  • .I have done this in quantities as small as 1 pound and up to 6 pounds. Make a quantity that you will finish eating in about five days.
  • Give yourself three days to the party.
  • Favor sushi-grade salmon, if you can, pat it dry, and remove any pin bones with tweezers. I spoke with a woman who makes it for her fish market; she favors high-quality farm-raised salmon for its fatty flesh.
  • Mix up enough salt, sugar, of equal amounts, and add pepper.
  • Use a flat pan big enough to hold the salmon, layer the salt mixture on the bottom, and a layer of dill.
  • Put one fillet on the salt, skin side down, then another salt mixture layer, with dill. Place the second fillet on top, flesh side down and top with salt, dill layer. (Flip the top piece of fish so that the thin end of the prime fillet is over the fat end of the bottom filet.
  • Cover with shrink wrap and add substantial weight. ( I use a cast-iron frying pan, and a weigh also.
  • Refrigerate for three days, draining every day. Replace the salt mixture if needed.

NB: This article talks about the favorite gravlax recipes of some well-known chefs. Note that some do it quicker than I do and leave the freshly made fish at room temperature for a few hours.

Glazed Carrots With Dill

This is one of those easy side dishes that are also dinner party-ready. There are many of them and they vary the sweetener. Here is one example of Carrots with Dill.

Cucumber With Dill

Here is a popular combination, delightful on a warm day, there are lots of permutations, here is one with sour cream, yogurt is another option.


Dill is a lovely enhancement to lamb dishes. This recipe for Lamb with lemon and dill sauce comes from the Greek island of Poros, where I think the food must be pretty good.

Dill Vinegar

Dill with caterpillar
Dill is a Host Plant For the Swallowtail Butterfly

At the end of the season, you will have the firecracker-shaped flowers, the last of the foliage, and seeds. These will make an attractive jar of vinegar. Here is a recipe.

Substitutions For Dill

What to do if I run out? For fresh or dried Dill, try Tarragon. Its taste is more robust; use a little less Tarragon than the recommended Dill. If using Dill as a garnish, Fennel will create the right appearance. A substitute for Dill seeds would be Caroway seed or Celery seed

How To Be Successful Growing Dill For The Kitchen – And Always Have Enough

Dill is delicious, but there are a few issues that need to be addressed. The plant produces seed fairly quickly and, at that point, stops producing the beautiful feathery leaves we like so much. There are a few steps we can take to extend its useful life. Is this a significant problem? Search the term “how to prevent Dill from…” and Google will offer you -bolting. Bolting is going to seed.

Extending The Plant’s Life

If you want to extend the useful life of your Dill plant, trim off the ends on a regular basis, and you will have the tasty leaves for longer. If you want the seeds and flowers, let it finish, and plant a new one. Also, mulch dill well to keep the soil temperature cool. This will help to extend the plant’s life.

Varieties Of Dill To Consider


This is the most popular variety; it has dark blue-green foliage. It is very aromatic and has a large seed head, which is desirable for pickling.


Delikat is known for its dense foliage and high yields at harvest. It germinates in 6-12 days and grows 10-24″ high. The relatively short height makes it suitable for containers and indoor gardens.


This variety has large leaves, making it ideal in salads and any cooking using the foliage. The seeds are useful in condiments. Dukat was bred in Denmark and has a sweet and mellow flavor designed for Scandinavian dishes. It will germinate in 7-14 days.


At only 18″ tall, Fernleaf Dill is perfect for container growing and is very decorative in floral arrangements. It is considered fast growing.


A variety that has rather coarse leaves, which suggests that the new leaves will be most tasty, it also is late to bolt, which extends its life.

Long Island

This one is also called Mammoth Dill, which should be a useful hint. It grows 5′ tall. The taste is superior, it is popular for pickling and cooking.


Having tall stems heavy foliage, it is easy to harvest and is valued for its essential oils. It is flavorful, grows 24″ Tall, and germinates in 12-18 days.


Vierling is late to bolt, which is a helpful feature, particularly in warm climates.

Having Dill All Season

Dill is a biennial herb, which means a 2-year life, but it is normally grown as an annual. It tends to bolt as the weather gets warm. To have enough Dill for an all-season start early in the spring and practice succession planting throughout the summer. This seed company has Dill planting instructions. Start young plants or seeds every 14 days.

In tropical areas, Dill is a fall and winter crop. It is now almost July, and my last plant is ready to compost. Dill bolts earliest in warm climates; planting in containers can help.

Do Not Transplant

Dill has a long taproot; it cannot be transplanted. Put it where you intend it to stay. You can plant it in containers deeper than 12″.

Growing Dill In Containers

You can plant a succession of Dill plants in containers. Use deep containers, and soilless potting soil, keep the soil moist but never wet, and provide the plants with 6-8 hours of sun. You can sow seeds directly in the containers. Sprinkle a few seeds over the soil and cover them with a light layer of soil—Dill germanates in about 14 days. Thin the plants to one or two per pot. This piece will help with choosing potting soil.

Planting In The Ground

Plant in full sun, in moist soil amended with compost. Dill grows best in neutral to slightly acidic soil.

Water And Fertilizer

Water Dill weekly, more often for container plants. You can use a 5-10-5 fertilizer once or twice per season.

Pruning And Harvesting Dill

Prune to the tops of the leaves; this will keep the plant bushy and sturdy. Remove any flowers until the end of the season. Begin to harvest when there are at least 4-5 leaves on the stalk. At this point, you will have the umbel flowers and the seeds. Use these in vinegar and pickles,

Pests and Diseases

Well-established Dill plants, growing in suitable environments, are disease resistant.


Carrot Motley Dwarf Disease requires two viruses to be present at the same time. This presents as stunted growth and red or yellow leaves. This article is written by the UC IPM program.

Downy Mildew Fungus appears as yellow spots on the foliage and white fuzzy areas under the leaf. It is fostered by wet leaves. Maintain air space between plants, and avoid overhead watering and standing water.

Powdery Mildew- appears as powdery coatings on the stalks. This fungal disease can travel by air and is aided by high humidity. This can be treated with fungicides if identified quickly.


Aphids are tiny insects, often white in color, and appear on the lower side of leaves. They create, as they feed, a sticky substance that turns black and attracts ants. Their presence often is the start of plant diseases. Look for them on your plants and remove them promptly. You can remove the entire affected leaves if isolated and also remove them with jets of water.

Dill is attractive to ladybugs which are natural enemies of aphids.

Companion Plants For Dill

Dill is a plant that attracts a variety of beneficial insects, including Hoverflies, Parasitic Wasps, Honeybees, and Butterflies.

Plant it near:

  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Onion
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage Family
  • Basil

Plants To Avoid Placing Near Dill

  • Carrots, the plants are members of the same family and can cross-pollinate, producing weaker plants
  • Peppers
  • Potato
  • Eggplant
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender


We have benefited from using this herb for over 2000 years. It has medicinal properties, it’s decorative, aromatic, and can improve our diets. Enjoy it in the garden and the kitchen. This article is a compendiumof garden herbs, including a chart of their most important features. It will also take you to other articles on specific herbs for your kitchen. I hope this will help you be successful in growing dill for your kitchen.