If you ask the average American what dill weed is used for, they’re likely to say pickles. This makes sense, especially given that Americans eat over 2.5 billion pounds of pickles each year and dill pickles are far and away the most popular type. But dill is much more than just an additive for pickle brine or a garnish on cold soups. It is also a staple herb in many kinds of cuisine around the world, and it is routinely used in the preparation of vegetables, meat, and fish. What may also be surprising to many people is that dill contains nutrients that offer a number of health benefits.
Where Does Dill Come From?
The dill plant (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herb from the same family (Apiaceae) as the well-known vegetable celery. Dill originated in and around the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago, and it was used by ancient cultures for its apparent medicinal and therapeutic properties; it was variously used as an appetite suppressant, an aphrodisiac, and as a breath freshener. These days, dill is widely cultivated across Europe, North America, and Asia, and it can be grown all year long.
What’s the Difference Between Dill and Dill Weed?
The terms dill and dill weed are often conflated and used interchangeably, but they are actually different things. The dill plant produces flowers, seeds, and leaves that are all edible, though the flowers are less popular. Generally speaking, dill usually refers to the seeds of the plant and dill weed refers to the leaves:
- Dill seed: The seeds of the dill plant are actually the fruit that develops from the flower; once the seeds are produced, the plant dies. These small, dry fruits look like grains of rice and can be used as a spice in cooking or pressed to extract dill oil. The flavor of dill seed is more pungent than the leaves and is often likened to caraway, coriander, or anise.
- Dill weed: Perhaps the most notable aspect of the dill plant is its thin, wispy fronds that look similar to carrot leaves. Dill leaves must be harvested before the flowers start to bloom in order to prevent a bitter taste from developing. Fresh dill weed is typically used as an aromatic herb, and it has a flavor reminiscent of licorice that is often compared to fennel or tarragon.
Health Benefits of Dill Weed
For such a seemingly simple herb, dill weed contains a wide variety of nutrients. In terms of vitamins, dill is particularly high in vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and riboflavin. It is also a good source of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. In addition to having high nutritional value, dill contains flavonoids and monoterpenes, two compounds that are known to have antioxidant properties. Listed below are some of the health benefits associated with the nutrients contained in dill weed:
- Heart health: The flavonoids present in dill have anti-inflammatory effects that may lower the risk of heart disease and decrease blood pressure. There is also evidence that may help clear blood clots as well as break up arterial plaque that comes from high cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that involves having a high blood sugar level and the inability of insulin to regulate it. Studies have shown that dill has an anti-diabetic effect by decreasing blood sugar. In fact, dill oil is now widely available as an essential oil supplement in pill form.
- Digestion: Dill has long been thought to be beneficial for reducing flatulence and bloating in the digestive tract, but it also has relatively high dietary fiber content that improves bowel motility. It also has antacid properties that make it useful in treating indigestion, gastritis, or other inflammatory conditions.
- Bone health: Dill contains numerous vitamins and minerals that support bone growth and regeneration, including iron, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D.
- Immune system: The antioxidants contained in dill are associated with improving immune function in part by protecting the body’s cells from free radical damage. Additionally, vitamin C can stimulate the activity of white blood cells in order to make them more effective at fighting off disease.
- Insomnia: Recent research has shown that magnesium and vitamin B—both compounds in dill—may be beneficial in the treatment of insomnia by creating a sedative effect. It does this by increasing the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
- Inflammation: Dill has been used since ancient times as a remedy for inflammation, and this is thought to be due largely to the concentration of antioxidants.
Are There Any Side Effects of Dill?
For the vast majority of people, dill is completely safe in all forms. There have been rare cases of allergic reactions to dill that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, swelling, and a number of other symptoms; people who are allergic to dill may also be allergic to carrots. It also isn’t recommended in supplement form for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those who will soon be having surgery.
Common Uses for Dill and Dill Weed
Of course, the most popular use for dill is in the brine of pickled cucumbers. Dill isn’t just for pickles anymore, however; it’s a versatile herb that can be used in many different kinds of food:
- fresh dill sprigs on roasted vegetables or a salad
- dried dill or crushed dill seed to give an aromatic flavor to soups and stews
- chopped and added to a creamy salad dressing
- depending on the desired strength of flavor, dried dill or fresh dill in potato salad
- both dill weed and dill seed can be used to season meat dishes
- dill can even be added to bread to give it a more savory flavor
High Quality Dry Ingredients
Dried dill weed is a popular flavor with many applications for home cooking, but it’s also great as an ingredient in some commercial food products like chips, snacks, sauces, salad dressings, or soups. At Silva, we maintain rigorous quality standards so we can provide the absolute best ingredients for your end products. To learn more about our process, or about how Silva can partner with you, please contact us.