Dill, which is very popular in Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia, produces leaves and seeds that are used as seasoning – not only in meats, fish and sauces but also in marinades, liqueurs and jams.
In these countries, dill is traditionally added to pickled gherkins to prevent bacteria from breeding. In fact, this herb had already become famous during the Middle Ages for its antiseptic and antispasmodic medicinal properties.
Even in this day and age, dill is part of numerous traditional digestive and strengthening medicinal preparations, especially in France, Italy, Germany and England. These digestive properties are also acknowledged in ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine).
Dill’s sweet and spicy smell is reminiscent of fennel and both these plants are often confused with one another. Fresh dill is delicate and has a very short shelf life. In order to make it last longer, wrap the leaves in damp paper towels and refrigerate.
Moreover, as it loses its flavour when heated, always add it to cooked dishes at the end. When fully mature seeds are picked and suitably dried, they retain their essential oil as well as all their active ingredients. You can simply chew them as they are or crush them slightly to make an infusion.
Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on July 17, 2010.