With its feathery appearance and cool, herbaceous taste, dill has long been an iconic springtime herb. A member of the parsley family, dill is native to the southern Mediterranean, though it is today most closely associated with Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisine.
In the ancient world, dill had a variety of meanings and uses. Ancient Egyptians used dill to ward off witches, while to dill signified wealth to the Greeks and good luck to the Romans, who spread the herb throughout their empire. English immigrants brought dill to North America, where the seeds were often chewed during long religious service to dull the appetite. Strongly associated today with Eastern European and Nordic cultural cuisine, the word dill comes from an old Norse word meaning to soothe or lull.
Dill is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as several antioxidants. Traditional medicine uses dill seed to freshen breath, soothe stomach complaints, alleviate colic and indigestion in babies, and stimulate milk production in breastfeeding women.
Snip the ends of dill stems, place in a jar with 1 to 2 inches of water, and store at room temperature for about 2 weeks. Alternatively, lightly spray dill stems with water, wrap loosely in paper towels, and store in a sealed plastic bag for up to 1 week.
While very popular as a pickling herb and an ingredient in classic tuna or egg salad, dill is also a natural pairing with spring and summer vegetables, such as asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, and summer squash. It’s light, herbaceous flavor complements the seafood well, especially cold-water fish like herring and salmon, as well as eggs and dairy. It blends well into cold dishes with sour flavors, such as Greek tzatziki and Eastern European borscht.
If not using a whole sprig of dill, separate leaves from stem and chop finely to use. 1 tablespoon of fresh dill substitutes for 1 teaspoon dried.