Dill Seed, botanical name Anethum graveolens, is an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae. Other members of this family include carrots and parsley. Dill seed is also known as American dill, dilly, European dill and seed dill. Dill Seed is not technically a seed, but the flat, oval, dark brown whole fruits of the herb. Dill Weed refers to the leaf and stem of the plant.
The dill plant is one of those rare plants that produces both an herb and a spice, others include Coriander, with the fruit known as Coriander Seeds and the leaves as Cilantro, and Fenugreek with the fruit known as Fenugreek Seeds and the leaves as Fenugreek Leaves. Although part of the same plant, dill seed and dill weed have such different flavor profiles that chefs would never substitute one for the other!
Dill is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and southern Russia. Dill has been used for thousands of years, with the earliest writings dating back to 700 BC. The Vikings cultivated a plant they called "dilla" as a remedy for colic in babies.
While pickles have been around for centuries, no one knows for sure when dill was first used as an essential flavoring. The earliest recipe dates back to 1640 from the cook to England's King Charles I which called for dill to be added to pickled cucumbers. Dill pickles are the most popular variety of pickle in America.
Dill seed is commercially produced in India, Pakistan, China, Hungary and Egypt. Our dill seed is cultivated in India.
The French and the Italians are not big fans of dill seed, as they tend to prefer fennel in their cooking. Dill seed has a much better reputation in German, Indian, Russian and Scandinavian cuisine.
Dill seeds are popular in Indonesian and Malaysian meat dishes, are used in condiments in Asia and in breads in Sweden. In the US, they are most frequently used in pickling. While Dill Seed and Dill Weed are used in completely different ways, they also sometimes are paired together most notably in pickling, salad dressings, sauces and vinegars.
Dill Seed is good with cabbage, onion, potatoes and pumpkin and can also be sprinkled over casseroles before baking.
Works well in combination with chili powder, coriander seed, cumin, garlic, ginger, mustard seed and turmeric.
The flavor is clean and pungent with anise undertones and a slight bite. The aroma is reminiscent of sweet caraway.
If you are making a recipe from an Indian cookbook, only use half as much dill seed as the recipe calls for (unless this is a Western version cookbook), as the dill seed most frequently sold in India is from a different species and is not nearly as pungent as the dill seed commonly found in the US, Australia, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
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