The University of California Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County says that harvesting a head of dill for seeds can easily be done by harvesting either just the head of dill or the entire plant and hanging the plant upside down over a clean cloth or paper. As the seeds dry, they will fall to the paper or cloth below. The Missouri Botanical Gardens says that you can also easily place just the head of dill in a paper bag to dry with the same results (the paper bag will catch the seeds as they dry).
The dill leaf, dill seed and flower head of dill plants are all usable for cooking, pickling, canning and general seasoning. Time your harvest of the different dill components based on your intended uses.
According to Gardening Know How, the flavor of dill is best when it just begins to flower. Fresh dill will have a pungent, characteristic aroma, and the more you can smell this, the more flavor the plant will have. You can harvest just the leaves by snipping them off with scissors. You can trim off the flower heads and dry them or wait until the plant goes to seed to harvest just the seeds.
Harvesting a Head of Dill
Flowers form in midsummer. Once the flowers form, the blossoms will turn into pungent seeds. If an abundant supply of dill is required, plant seeds directly in the ground every couple of weeks for an ongoing harvest.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, dill grows as a strong and sturdy plant in full sun, but dill plants grown in shade are likely to fall over. In hot conditions or when they don’t get enough water, dill plants tend to bolt. Dill produces aromatic, lacy, fern-like leaves on the sides of tall, thin, green stalks. At the top, flowers form in the shape of an umbrella with small flowers held upright in thin stems in a curved shape.
Luckily, garden dill (Anethum graveolens) is ready to harvest for pickles at the same time that cucumbers are ready in abundance. A head of dill or dill seed in brine is an essential flavor for any dill pickle recipe. Dill grows as a garden annual in zones 2 through 11. Dill’s flavor is often described as being similar to licorice or anise but with a green, grassy flavor as well.
Dill is commonly called “dill weed” by gardeners because it grows like a weed. Dill started from seed at the beginning of summer can easily reach 5 feet tall by the end of the growing season. Fresh dill is often used as a primary seasoning for fish and herb mixes and butters. Dill seed is common in many soups and sauces and as a flavoring for vegetables or breads, sauerkraut, sausage and, of course, the ubiquitous dill pickle.
Fresh dill weed is a popular complement to fish but can also be a pleasant addition to potato salad. Like the dill seed, dill weed works well with legumes but it is also enjoyable in coleslaw and is useful for flavoring dips. You can even use the seeds and the leaves of the dill plant together in some salad dressings and vinegars.
When making substitutions, you should also consider the difference in appearance between the seeds and the leaves. Some people find the appearance of dill weed in pickle brine to be unappetizing. If you are using dill weed instead dill seeds to flavor your pickles, you may want to chop it finely to make it less noticeable.
In the United States, the most well known use of dill seeds is as the main flavoring in dill pickles; however, they are widely used in Indian, Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisines. Dill seeds are excellent when used in acidic dishes including pickled beets, carrots and even pickled fish. You can also add them to your lentil dal or use them with any other legume to aid digestion.
How are dill seeds and dill weed used differently in the kitchen?
Like many herbs, the seeds and the leaves do have some similarities but they are not identical. The flavor of dill leaves is similar to that of parsley and anise with notes of lemon. While dill seeds do have the same notes of anise, they also have notes of caraway. The seeds’ flavor is more pungent and some cooks even consider it slightly bitter and reminiscent of camphor; on the other hand, the leaves’ flavor is more delicate. In addition to all that, dill seeds have a characteristic not found in dill weed: their flavor tends to become stronger when heated.
The dill plant is versatile in that you can use both the leaves and the seeds to provide flavor. “Dill weed” is the term used for the leaves; you can use them as an herb and use the seeds as a spice. Both forms of dill are essential for your spice collection as they are both popular ingredients in a number of different cuisines from all over the world. If you have encountered one or both forms of dill in your local supermarket, you may have wondered if there are any differences between the two. Do they have the same flavor? Can you use one in place of the other? Our Spiceography Showdown will provide you with answers.
Because of the flavor differences, the seeds and leaves of the dill plant are not ideal replacements for each other; however, it is possible in a pinch. Keep in mind that you will need to use different amounts when substituting one for the other. Three heads of dill weed is roughly equivalent to a single tablespoon of the seeds. In addition, bear in mind that the seeds stand up to longer cooking times better than the leaves. This means that if you are using dill weed in place of the seeds, it is best to add them towards the end of the cooking time rather than at the beginning.
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When fresh dill is being used to flavor a recipe (as it is in pickles, soups, and sauces), use fresh tarragon in its place. To make the proper substitution, use an equal amount of fresh tarragon for the fresh dill, or dried tarragon for the dried dill. You can also use dried tarragon as a stand-in for fresh dill weed, but you’ll need to adjust the quantities, as it has a more intense flavor. Use one teaspoon of dried tarragon for every tablespoon of fresh dill called for in a recipe. Tarragon works well as a substitute for dill in seafood dishes and in salad dressings.
Dill is incredibly easy to grow, so consider adding it to your garden. It’s an annual, but it reseeds readily. Just allow some of the flowers to go to seed at the end of the season, and it should come up on its own next year.
If dill weed is being used as a garnish for a dish, use fennel fronds instead. They look very similar. Fresh parsley can also be used as a garnish. It looks a bit different, but will still add that pop of green. If you don’t have either, just leave the garnish off, or get creative with whatever you have on hand.
Substituting Other Herbs
Working on a recipe that calls for dill weed or dill seed? If you don’t have any on hand, there are several things that you can use in its place, including other forms of dill, tarragon, celery seed or caraway seed. Here’s how to make a successful substitution, using what you have on hand.
Substituting fresh dill for dried dill (or vice versa) is easy to do. Just stick to these proportions, and you’ll get great results:
Dill weed is sometimes also referred to as dill leaves. It’s the bright green, feathery fronds of the dill plant. It’s highly aromatic, and tastes of caraway or anise, with a bit of citrus thrown in.
Dill seeds taste similar to dill weed, but they have a slightly bitter edge to them. They appear frequently in pickles, bread, salad dressing, and soup recipes. While you might be tempted to use dill weed as a substitute for dill seeds, you’ll get better results if you use caraway seeds or celery seeds in their place. Replace them measure for measure, and you should come close to the intended flavor.