This magic herb is ruled by Mercury and thus thought to strengthen the brain. It calms the mind but sharpens concentration. Because it is an airy, fragrant plant, it is also sometimes considered an Air herb. The foliage was worn as a protective charm against sorcery, but dill seeds are also mentioned in medieval grimoires as Hair of the Hamadryas Baboon (see the Herbal Codes page). The word dill comes from Saxon dylle, to soothe; it was made into a tea given to colicky babies, and it seems to be that this is the reason why it was thought that having witches drink dill tea would take away their willpower. The seeds make a great Mercury incense that's nice for empowering magickal works or for spells involving the acquisition of knowledge. The flower essence is helpful for people who are overwhelmed with their life. It is calming but sharpens the senses so that we appreciate the sensory value of the moment. In the language of flowers, this plant signifies good will but also lust - this might be the origin of the contemporary idea that it should be used in love magick. Flower languages generally originated in the Victorian period, though, so the using this herb this way might well be modern. The other possibility is that the seed was traditionally used in fertility charms - if you've ever grown dill, you know just how fertile it is!
This big friendly plant (the collie of the herb world) has been used as an herb since ancient Egypt, is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and was used by the Romans, who spread it thoughout Europe. The leaves were a common spice amongst the Norse of 11th-12th century, and it was grown in medieval gardens as a flavoring and even a pot herb. In Colonial times, the seeds were chewed during long church services to help people stay awake and stave off hunger, so it got the name of "Meeting House seed." The seeds were bruised and made into a digestive tea that helps get rid of gas and stimulates the appetite: steep 2 teaspoons in one cup water for 15 minutes. To make dill water for colicky children, bruise 1 teaspoon of seeds in cup of hot water and steep for 3 hours. Add sugar or honey and give one teaspoon to children (babies should not eat honey because they are not yet at all resistant to botulism) after meals for digestion. Culpeper advised people with hiccups to chop up some fresh dill, wrap it in a bit of cloth, and smell it until the hiccups are gone.
The leaves are sweeter and more aromatic than fennel or parsley and make a good wine vinegar. They are usually referred to in cooking as "dill weed" and make a nice flavoring for potato soup, vinegar-dressed potato salad, cooked fish, cream soups, sour cream, and eggs. The chopped fresh flowers are edible and make a nice addition to savory muffins. The seeds are often used in pickles, although in the Middle Ages, the whole flower head was harvested for pickling. The seed oil is used to perfume soaps. The scent of the seeds can be extracted into oil by bruising the seeds and macerating them in the oil of your choice for two weeks. Add a couple drops of vitamin E oil as a preservative. Or you can make a nice rub for chapped hands and feet by warming one cup of olive or other oil and putting in 2 tablespoons of dill seeds. Jar and let sit for a week, then strain and use.
In the Garden
This plant grows well in the vegetable garden with cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). It is supposed to repel aphids, and the flowers attract many beneficial insects, which makes it one of the best herbs for companion planting. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars like to eat it. You can harvest the leaves as soon as the flower stalk shoots up. To harvest the seeds, cut the stalk when the seeds begin to turn golden brown. hang upside down in a brown bag for a week in a warm but dry place. The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bag. Help them along by scrunching the seed heads a little. Gently dry the seeds before storing. Dill is also known as anet, soyah, aneton, dill weed, and dilly. This dill variety, Bouquet, is one of the most popular to grow in the US. These seeds are organically grown.
How to Grow Dill
Dill germinates in 7-21 days at room temperature or plant outside after danger of frost is past. Prepare the bed (till and break up clods with a rake, or if using no-till, take mulch off and break up clods), wet the soil thoroughly, sprinkle the seeds on, sprinkle a thin covering of compost, peat moss, fine soil, or sand over the seeds, and gently pat in with your hand. This will give the seeds good contact with the soil. You can also start it indoors in peat pellets or seed trays. Transplant to full sun and space 9 in/28 cm apart. This herb gets 35-60"/.8-1.5m tall - good for the back of the border or for planting around the outer edges of your veggie garden to attract beneficials to your patch - but it can be grown in a pot indoors on sunny windowsill if all you want is the leaf. Dill takes 40-55 days from transplant to harvesting leaves and 80-105 days from transplanting to harvesting seeds. Start early if you have a very short season and want to havest a lot of seeds. You can plant every 3 weeks to keep the harvest going all season. Harvest seeds heads when they start to turn golden brown and dry before storing. This is an annual but reseeds prolifically when happy. General growing info
© 2007, 2015 Harold A. Roth. No reproduction of
any part without permission.