( Originally Published 1933 )
Dill is native to Asia Minor and Europe. The gray-green stems, feathery leaves, and lacy umbels of greenish yellow florets compose a handsome, fragrant plant.
Root. It has a single, slender taproot from which tiny rootlets grow.
Stem. The stems are gray-green, smooth, hollow with a bloom on them, and little lines along them. They grow two and one-half to three feet or more high.
Leaf. The leaves are compounded into thread-like divisions, and are six inches long, diminishing in size as they ascend the stem. 'When fresh they taste a little bitter, penetrating, and stimulating like a combination of orange peel and onion.
Flower. The greenish yellow flowers are arranged in a large, circular, very open umbel as much as six inches across composed of smaller circles. The tiny petals roll inwards and have no bracts.
Seed. The strongly fragrant seeds are shaped like a brown leaf with cream-colored veins and margins, con-cave on one side and convex on the other, and are about one-quarter of an inch long. They taste sharply like camphor, or anise, and a little bitter.
HISTORY AND LEGEND
The East Indians use it medicinally and for flavoring, and it is said to be on sale in every bazaar. In their festivals the Romans crowned themselves with the flowering branches of dill. Pliny wrote of its medicinal functions, as did Ibn Baithar, who also mentions it as a flavoring. It was on Charlemagne's list. Magicians used it in their spells and as a charm against witchcraft. It was an old German custom for the bride to carry it and new-born calves were rubbed with salt and dill. John Josselyn mentioned it in 1674.
Medicine. The herb boiled in broth has been used with great success in preventing obesity according to Poucher's "Medical Botany," 1869, which, if true, ought to insure its popularity.
Perfume. The oil distilled from the seeds is fragrant, and is mixed with other essences for perfuming soaps.
Dill water is more of a druggist's than a perfumer's article, according to Piesse, who says that some ladies use a mixture of half dill water and half rose water as a simple cosmetic to clear the complexion.
Food. Dill is famous because its partnership with cu-cumbers has produced the dill pickle, which is not a recent affair but a long-established relationship. Parkinson, in his "Paradisi in Sole," says, "It is also put among pickled cucumber where it doth very well agree, giving to the cold fruit a pretty spicie taste or relish."
The young tops and leaves of the plants are used to aromatize vinegars, and are also mixed into fish sauces to which they lend a piquant taste.
Since dill is an annual, it is sown every spring after danger from frost is over. It comes readily from seed, and takes two and a half months from seed time to harvest. It should be sown thinly, and when the plants are two or three inches high, if it is necessary, they should be thinned, for dill does not like transplanting. It is a good plan to time the planting so that it will ripen with the cucumbers, for the fresh leaves are used as well as the seed in making the pickle.
Harvest. The fresh leaves are picked when the flowers begin to open, and the seeds are harvested when ripe.