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Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Apiaceae (parsley family)
Central Asia. Most imported dill stems from Egypt, other Mediterranean countries or Eastern Europe.
Used plant part
Fruit (best crushed before use). The fresh herb is also aromatic, but loses much of its delicate flavour after drying.
Sweet and aromatic, anise-like flavour.
The essential oils from leaves (0.35%) and fruits (2 to 4%) differ slightly in composition: In the fruit oil, the main components are carvone (40 to 60%) and limonene (40%), but other monoterpenes appear only in traces (phellandrene, carveol, terpinene and dihydrocarvone). In the leaf oil, the aroma is determined by carvone (30 to 40%), limonene (30 to 40%), phellandrene (10 to 20%) and other monoterpenes; dill ether (a monoterpene ether) is characteristic of dill leaf oil.
Dill plants in full flower
The characteristic, sweet taste of dill is popular all over Europe, Western, Central and Southern Asia. In Europe, it is mostly used for bread, vegetable (especially cucumber), pickles, and fish; for the last application, the leaves are preferred. Furthermore, it is indispensable for herb flavoured vinegars.
In North Eastern Eastern Europe and Russia, dill is popular for pickled vegetables, which are there produced in great variety, either by pickling in vinegar or by lactic fermentation. Fresh dill sprigs are mandatory in most recipes of that kind. In these regions with long, cold winters, preserved vegetables are an important source of vitamins and fresh flavour for the otherwise dull winter diet. Dill is also one of the few herbs used in the cooking of the Baltic states.
Fresh dill leaves (dillweed) is a kind of national spice in Scandinavian countries, where fish or shellfish dishes are usually either directly flavoured with dill or served together with sauces containing dill. German cooks also tend to use dill mostly for fish soups and stews. Dill reached the Northern latitudes probably via medieval monasteries, where it was grown as a medicinal herb according to the Capitulare de villis .
Dill has, however, retained its popularity in its original homeland, Asia. Dried dill shows up in Georgia's famous spice mixture, khmeli-suneli and is also quite popular in Iran, mainly for boiled beans.
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