Dishing up Dill

Botanically known as Anethum graveolens, dill is a member of the Apiaceae family, along with other mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems and umbrella-like flower clusters. Included in this family are anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander (including cilantro), cumin, fennel, hemlock, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, and parsnip.

Dill is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used for its culinary and medicinal properties for millennia. Dill dates back in writing to about 3000 B.C., where it was mentioned in Egyptian medical texts. Dill is also mentioned in the Bible. It was popular in the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, where it was considered a sign of wealth and was revered for its many healing properties. Dill was used by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, in a recipe for cleaning the mouth. Ancient soldiers would apply burnt dill seeds to their wounds to promote healing.

Charlemagne made dill available on his banquet tables, so his guests who indulged too much could benefit from its carminative (stomach-soothing) properties. Today, dill is a noted herb in the cuisines of Scandinavia, Central Europe, North Africa, and the Russian Federation. The word dill comes from the old Norse word dylla, meaning to soothe or lull. This name reflects dill’s traditional uses as both a carminative and an insomnia reliever.

Dill is a unique plant in that both its leaves and seeds are used as a seasoning. Dill’s green leaves are wispy and fern-like and have a soft, sweet taste. Dill seeds, used as a spice, are similar in taste and appearance to caraway seeds, featuring a flavor that is aromatic, sweet and citrus-like, but also slightly bitter. Dried dill seeds are light brown in color and oval in shape, featuring one flat side and one convex side with vertical ridges.

The leaves, flowers, and seeds of the dill plant are all edible, although mature seeds are toxic to birds. The plant has thin, feathery green leaves, of which only about the top eight inches are used. Dill weed has a flavor likened to mild caraway or fennel leaves. The plant is, in fact, often mistaken for the feathery fronds of fennel.

Dill oil, extracted from dill seeds, has been used in traditional medicines as anti-spasmodic, carminative, appetizer, digestive, sedative, disinfectant, and galactagogue (to help breast milk secretion in nursing mothers). It has also been used to relieve neurological symptoms like headaches and nervous irritability. Along with caraway, fennel, and aniseed, dill seeds are used in gripe water, a folk remedy for infants with colic, gastrointestinal discomfort, teething pain, reflux, and other stomach ailments.

Dill contains no cholesterol and is low in calories. Dill leaves (sprigs) and seeds contain many essential volatile oils such as dillapiole, eugenol, terpinene, isorhamnetin, and myristicin. Its unique health benefits come from two types of healing components: monoterpenes, including d-carvone, limonene, and anethofuran; and flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin. 

Dillapiole is believed increase the formation of milk in nursing mothers, prevent gas problems (by removing gas from the intestines and preventing the build-up of gas in the intestines), prevent muscle spasms (by relaxing the nerves and muscles), soothe the brain and nerves (which can help you relax and sleep while also reducing feelings of anger, anxiety, depression and tension), support healthy digestion (by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices and muscle contractions within the intestines), treat infections (such as colon, genital, hair, kidney, skin and urinary tract infections) and treat wounds (both internally and externally).

Isorhamnetin is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body’s cells from damaging free radicals, prevents multiple types of cancer (including esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer), reduces the complications associated with diabetes (which include diabetic cataracts and high blood glucose levels), and helps keep your heart healthy by preventing arteriosclerosis (hardening and loss of elasticity within the arteries), preventing high blood pressure, and protecting the heart’s cells against oxidative damage.

Dill can:

  • Fight free radicals. The monoterpene components of dill activate the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the antioxidant molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise damage your body.
  • Fight cancer. Dill’s volatile oils qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens, such as the benzopyrenes that are part of the smoke from cigarettes, charcoal grills, and trash incinerators.
  • Fight infection. The volatile oils in dill are bacteriostatic; that is, they can prevent bacterial overgrowth. The essential oil, eugenol, in dill has been used as local anesthetic and antiseptic. Eugenol also reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics.

In addition to its chemoprotective and bacteriostatic properties, dill is a very good source of iron, manganese, and calcium, and a good source of potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Along with plenty of fiber, it contains many antioxidants, niacin, and vitamin B6, all of which help to control blood cholesterol levels. Dill is also rich in many other vitamins, including folate, riboflavin, vitamin A, ß-carotene, and vitamin C, which are essential for optimum metabolism. Vitamin A, and beta carotene are natural flavonoid antioxidants. One hundred grams of dill weed provides 7718 IUs or 257% of the Daily Value (DV) of this vitamin. Eating natural foods rich in flavonoids helps protect your body from lung and oral cavity cancers. Fresh dill is an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C: 100 grams contain about 85 milligrams or 140% of the DV of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Dill Weed

Nutrient

Amount

DV

vitamin A 7718 IU 257%
vitamin C 85 mg 140%
iron 6.59 mg 82%
manganese 1.264 mg 55%
folate 150 µg 37.5%
riboflavin 0.296 mg 23%
calcium 208 mg 21%
potassium 738 mg 16%
copper 0.146 mg 16%
vitamin B6 0.185 mg 14%
magnesium 55 mg 14%
niacin 1.570 mg 11%
phosphorus 66 mg 9.5%
pantothenic acid 0.397 mg 8%
zinc 0.91 mg 8%
protein 3.46 g 6%
carbohydrates 7 g 5.5%
fiber 2.10 g 5.5%
thiamine 0.058 mg 5%
fat 1.12 g 4.5%
sodium 61 mg 4%
Calories 43 Kcal 2%
cholesterol 0 mg 0%

Fresh dill weed as well as dill seeds are available in stores year-round. Whenever possible, buy fresh dill sprigs, because they are superior in flavor and richer in many vitamins and antioxidants such as ß-carotene, vitamin C, and folate.

Fresh dill should feature feathery, vibrant green sprigs and firm stems. It should be free from any bruises or yellowing. Dill leaves that are a little wilted are still acceptable, because they usually droop very quickly after being picked. Buy dill that has been grown using organic techniques.

Dill seeds as well as dill oils are also available in stores. The seeds used as spice and condiment. Good-quality dill seeds release a pleasant, sweet, and slightly peppery aroma when rubbed between your index finger and thumb.

In the store, buy whole dill seeds instead of powdered. The seeds can be stored in cool, dry, dark place, in airtight containers for many months and can be ground as required. Ground and powdered dill seed should be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be used as early as possible since it loses flavor rather quickly.

Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice and ethnic stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried herbs, try to select organically grown dill seeds, because this will give you more assurance that the spice has not been irradiated.

At home, store fresh dill weed in the refrigerator either wrapped in a slightly damp towel or with its stems placed in a container of water. Because it is very fragile, even if stored properly, dill will only keep fresh for about two days. Dill can be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers. Alternatively, you can freeze the dill leaves in ice cube trays covered with water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.

Dried dill seeds should be stored in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dry, dark place where they will keep fresh for about six months.

Dill has been used to prepare many popular dishes in Mediterranean and European cuisine since ancient times. Dill has also been used to prepare of soups and sauces. Freshly chopped and sautéed dill is a great addition to green salads. Dill seeds are used in pickling as well as in spicy dishes. Combine dill weed with soy yogurt and chopped cucumber for a delicious cooling dip. Use dill weed as a garnish for sandwiches. Because dill seeds were traditionally used to soothe the stomach after meals, place some seeds in a small dish and place it on the dinner table for all to enjoy. Add dill to your favorite chickpea or tofu salad recipe. Mix together chopped cooked potatoes, green beans, and soy yogurt, then season with both dill seeds and chopped dill weed.


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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