Grow dill, to enrich the overview of the herbs to be included in the garden, let’s try to get to know dill, a plant that is easily found in our territories in the wild, in the plains and hills up to 600 meters above sea level.
Its intense aroma, reminiscent of that of anise and cumin, is enhanced in particular by the cuisine of northern Europe, from which we could draw inspiration for new recipes or reinterpretations of those already known, using both seeds and leaves for this purpose.
But now let’s see how to cultivate this aromatic species in a natural, simple, and efficient way, starting from sowing to harvesting the leaves.
The dill plant
Due to the great similarity between the two plants, it is easy to confuse dill with wild fennel, and for this reason, dill is also called “bastard fennel” or “fetid fennel”. Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Umbelliferae or Apiaceae family, already known for parsley, carrot, fennel, and celery.
It has a stem that can reach 50-60 cm in height or even more, it is hollow inside and furrowed, light green in color, and with bitter-tasting leaves. The flowering of the dill occurs throughout the summer until September, and the flowers are small, yellow, and gathered in the typical compound umbrella inflorescences, or rather an umbrella of umbrellas, which smell pleasantly. Fruits are generated from the flowers formed by two small yellow achenes.
How it is grown
Growing dill is simple, there are no special precautions, but some basic rules must be respected, such as choosing a position in the sun and administering constant, even if moderate, irrigation. It is an aromatic herb that is different from others that are more resistant to droughts such as rosemary and sage.
Dill is a sun-loving species, with which it produces more essential oil, so you need to think carefully about a position that is illuminated and protected from the winds. He also wants warm temperatures, suffers from the cold, and above all from the frost of winter, and in summary, we can say that the temperature range he prefers is between 15 and 25 ° C.
The sowing of dill
Dill is a species that lends itself to gradual sowing, to be carried out between April and the end of summer, directly in the garden on the chosen space. We can choose between the broadcast sowing technique, ideal especially if there is little space and we want to optimize it, or in rows 30-40 cm apart. When the seedlings have emerged, however, it will be necessary to thin out, leaving a space of 15-20 cm between one specimen and another.
The soil in both cases must first be carefully worked and amended with compost. No particular additional fertilizations are required, considering that the aromatics want lean soils.
If it is good in the place of sowing, dill tends to re-seed itself, also becoming a weed. For this reason, it is better to collect the seeds in time for sowing the following year, to decide where to sow it and not let it colonize the spaces it wants, but for this purpose, it is important to distance it from the wild fennel, otherwise, there is a strong risk of hybridization between the two related species.
Dill lends itself well to intercropping with cucumbers, but also with broad beans, which are more protected from aphid attacks thanks to this proximity.
The soil must be well-drained, but irrigation must be frequent and regular, to ensure a luxuriant growth of the seedlings, and this is even more true in possible cultivation in the pot.
Mulching with organic material such as straw, dry leaves, withered grass or other natural material helps to keep the soil moist for a long time, as well as curbing the growth of unwanted grass.
However, small dill seedlings can be a welcome snail meal. If we notice their presence, it is better to put some strips of ash around the portion of land affected by the dill, by the beer traps, or a few small handfuls of iron orthophosphate, a parasite also allowed in organic farming.
Any aphids that may appear in colonies on the stems and shoots are treated with Marseille soap sprayed on the affected parts or as a preventive measure with do-it-yourself extracts of garlic, chili, and nettle, which are used to protect all plants from these parasites…
Collection and use of dill
We can collect the young and tender leaves of the dill, which are finely ground are used to flavor soups, cooked vegetables, mixed salads, and meat dishes. Dill contains up to 4% of essential oil and up to 18% of other oils, hence the intense smell of the leaves and their slightly spicy taste. By freezing the dill leaves many of the properties are lost, which is why we recommend gradual sowing: in this way we will always have fresh leaves to harvest. Dill, like fennel, helps digestion and limits the effects of bloating.
With the seeds, on the other hand, we can flavor sauerkraut or pickled vegetables, but also baked cakes and biscuits, to which they give that unmistakable note.
To get the seeds, the umbrellas are collected and dried wrapped in a breathable cloth in a shaded and ventilated room or veranda. Once well dried, the umbrellas fight to separate the fruit seeds, which must be placed in hermetically sealed jars.
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