Gardens - Herb Gardening

How to grow dill

Stagger your crops so you can enjoy this herb in summer dishes all season long

Caring for dill
Throughout the season, especially during hot, dry summers, keep your dill consistently watered. According to Richter, this will prevent anthocyanins from developing. “Anthocyanins are stress response compounds that increase the bitterness somewhat. There are varieties (like Dukat) that farmers prefer to grow that have less anthocyanins where this is a problem,” he says.

Pests and diseases
Dill doesn’t tend to be susceptible to pests or diseases. Aphids can be an issue (though it’s rare), but once your dill flowers, it will also attract ladybugs, which should eat the aphids right up.

Dill does attract some butterflies, though, including the beautiful black swallowtail. If you see a large caterpillar (specifically, the parsley worm) on your dill, simply transfer it to a less valuable plant so it can munch on that instead.

Harvesting and using dill
If you’re after dill seeds for your homemade pickles, be careful not to cut too much foliage during the season. Richter says it’s okay to take a few branches here and there when you need them, but you should leave most to develop seeds.

If you want both fresh leaves and seeds from your dill crop, Richter suggests planning to thin your rows and then using the thinnings for fresh use. “Then, as plants grow, select a portion of the row to cut for fresh use or continue to thin plants between the ones designated as your ‘seed’ plants,” he says.

Dill seeds are ready to harvest when they turn brown and are almost at the point of falling off. Once you’ve harvested them, dry dill seeds carefully. Don’t dry them in an oven or other heated place, says Richter, or they’ll lose their flavour. Instead, let them dry slowly in a shaded, well-ventilated area for a week or two. By then, they should be completely dry and you can store them in air-tight containers until you’re ready to use them. If they’re not completely dry, you risk mould growing on the seeds in storage.

Dried foliage is flavourless, so get your fill while it’s fresh or try freezing it.

Image: letty17/istock

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