Garden View: The deal with dill

It’s medicinal, soothing, and a sign of wealth

Dill, Anethum graveolens, is an ancient herb that historically, has been used as a culinary herb and an important medicinal herb in several cultures.

Dill began in southern Russia and the Mediterranean and northern areas of Africa.

Egyptians found dill to be soothing and its fragrance was used to help one relax and “ward off witches.”

Greeks used it as a symbol of wealth and the Romans used roasted dill seed to help heal wounds. Additionally, the leaves were placed in wreaths honoring athletes and heroes.

By the time of the writing of the Bible, dill was a taxed commercial crop.

Dill is also a commercial crop in South Texas. It is easy to grow during cooler months and produces an abundance of seed. In a home garden, dill can spread easily when seed production and South Texas winds combine. You can easily control the spread of dill by cutting some of its beautiful yellow flowers, interrupting the seed production stage.

Dill grows best in full sun, with regular irrigation, in rich, well-drained soils. Dill will rot if the soils are not welldrained. When cooking with dill leaves, add them to dishes just a couple of minutes before turning off the stove, so that you can retain all of the flavor and health benefits.

Dill is probably best known for its role in pickled foods and as an ingredient in dip.

It is high in vitamins A, C and B6 and contains calcium, iron, manganese and folate, providing many nutritional benefits. Dill contains important flavonoids and other phytochemicals that provide health benefits. In fact, a recent study (published in 2018) demonstrated the possible benefits of dill seed extract in preventing the growth of certain cancers.

Dill supports digestive health and has antimicrobial and antifungal properties that prevent infections and help support the immune system. Dill has antiinfl ammatory chemicals that ease gout and arthritis and chemicals found in its essential oils are anti-congestive and antihistaminic, assisting the respiratory system in fighting allergies or coughs.

Dill seeds and leaves are good mouth and breath fresheners and the essential oils in dill are disinfectant in nature.

This property helps support oral health, just has it has for thousands of years.

Many of the chemicals in dill, make the plant an excellent one to plant as a companion plant, keeping fungal diseases at bay and warding off some insects. Dill flowers attract beneficial insects and discourage aphids, cabbage loopers and spider mites. It is a great companion plant for cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and kale, as well as lettuce, cucumbers, corn, asparagus and onions.

Do not use with the nightshade family or with carrots.

Dill deserves a place in our kitchen and our garden. As scientist continue to study the many benefits of dill, we should take advantage of this easy to grow herb and add it to soups, seafood and chicken dishes and sauces and salad dressing. Today, at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, you can pick up fresh dill seed, as well as, dill transplants ready to go in the garden. This market is open every Saturday, year round, from 9 to noon, in Firemen’s Park, on the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can reach her by email at bar [email protected].