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Anethum graveolens L.

Family : Umbelliferae

Other names: Dill seed, dill weed, garden dill


Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a fennellike annual or biennial herb of the parsley family. Native to Mediterranean countries and southeastern Europe, dill is now widely cultivated in Europe, India, and North America. The name dill comes from an Old Norse word, dilla, meaning "lull" since they used it to quiet crying babies. Dill was widely used in Greek and Roman times. In the Middle Ages it was thought to have magical properties and was used in witchcraft, love potions and as an aphrodisiac. The whole plant is aromatic. The young leaves and the fully developed green fruit are used for flavoring purposes.

Native to Southern Europe and Western Asia, dill grows wild in Spain, Portugal and Italy. It is now cultivated in India, Germany, Rumania, and England and to some extent in North and South America as a commercial crop.


Dill is an annual herb of parsley family, 45-75 cm in height, with finely feathered blue-green fern-like leaves and hollow stems. It produces small open umbels of creamy-yellow flowers in summer followed by dark brown seeds. The fruit, or seed, is broadly oval in shape, about 0.14 inch (3.5 mm) long, with three longitudinal dorsal ridges and two wing-like lateral ridges.


The seeds should be planted in rows at the rate of 15 to 20 to the foot either late in fall or early in spring and thinned to 3 or 4 plants per foot. If dill is planted along the north side of the garden, the shading of smaller plants will be avoided. Germination takes place in 10 days to 2 weeks if seeds are sown in spring; fall-sown seeds do not germinate until early in spring. In good soil the plants will grow 3 to 4 feet in height, and only light cultivation is necessary to control weeds. The fruiting umbels are ready to harvest for seasoning when the fruit is fully developed but not yet brown. The seed is the ripe fruit of the plant, actually formed by two united carpels. The leaves are used only in the fresh state, but the fruiting tops may be used either fresh or dried. A few plants should be left to mature seed for planting. The umbels may be dried on screens in the shade and stored in closed containers for winter use, but the leaves lose their pleasing flavor when dried.

Dill seed contains 2 - 5% volatile oil. Its main constituent is carvone and the other components are d-limonene and phellandrene. A recent study also found eugenol and vanillin present in the seed. Dill weed or leaves contains 0.3 - 1.5% volatile oil, the chief constituent also being carvone.

Culinary use

Dill is used as a condiment and flavouring and as a pickling spice. It is used to season foods, particularly in eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The entire plant is aromatic, and the small stems and immature umbels are used for flavouring soups, salads, sauces, fish, sandwich fillings, and particularly pickles. The leaves freshly chopped may be used alone or in dill butter for broiled or fried meats and fish, in sandwiches, in fish sauces, and in creamed or fricasseed chicken. The major commercial use of dill is in the form of dillweed oil, used in the pickle industry. Dill has a warm, slightly sharp flavour somewhat reminiscent of caraway.

Medicinal use

The whole seeds and the seed oil have carminative properties and have been used in treating flatulent colic. Often taken as 'dill water' to relieve digestive problems and flatulence. It is used widely to cure insomnia and hiccups. Occasionally dill is used to perfume cosmetics. A medicinal oil is distilled from leaves, stems and seeds.


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