Interesting Facts About Dills

Interesting Facts About Dills


Dill is an aromatic and flavorful herb that has been used for thousands of years. With its delicate, wispy leaves and pyramid-shaped seeds, dill adds a distinctive taste to many dishes around the world. Beyond being a popular pickling spice, dill has a long history of uses – from ancient Egyptian ceremonies to Talmudic sleep remedies.

In this article, we’ll explore some intriguing details about this fascinating herb. We’ll learn about dill’s botanical characteristics, trace its origins back to the ancient world, discuss its nutrition and health benefits, uncover quirky facts, highlight global cuisine uses, provide growing tips, and more. Read on to learn amazing trivia about the versatile dill plant!

What are Dills?

What are Dills?

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herbaceous plant that reaches 1-4 ft tall at maturity. It has long, delicate, soft green leaves that are finely divided and branch out like the teeth of a comb. Tiny yellow flowers bloom in umbrella-shaped clusters that then produce oval dry seeds with longitudinal ridges. The entire dill plant is aromatic, but the green leaves and seeds have the strongest flavor.

Botanically, dill belongs to the Apiaceae family along with carrots, parsley, cilantro, and celery. It is believed to originally be from the Mediterranean or southern Russia. Ancient Egyptians used dill as far back as 3000 BC. Records show dill seeds were even found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, signifying its value. Dill was also revered in ancient Greek and Roman cultures and appears in Chinese medicinal texts from 5,000 years ago.

The name “dill” likely derives from the Norse word “dilla” meaning to lull or soothe. Its Latin name Anethum graveolens means “strong smelling”. Dill’s fragrant oils are very concentrated in the seeds, which is why they are commonly dried and used as a spice. Meanwhile, the fresh, feather-like leaves, also known as dill weed, provide milder flavor. Both the seeds and leaves impart a clean, grassy, lemony aroma.

The Nutritional Value and Medicinal Properties of Dills

While low in calories, dill provides an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting components.

One tablespoon of dill weed contains:

  • 1 calorie
  • 12% DV vitamin A
  • 5% DV folate
  • 3% DV iron
  • 2% DV vitamin C and calcium

Dill is especially high in antioxidants like kaempferol, vicenin, and anethofuran which fight inflammation and cell damage in the body. It also contains essential oils like carvone, limonene, and myristicin that give dill its antibacterial effects.

Historically, dill was known as a soothing remedy for digestive issues. The Talmud recommends it for sleeplessness and Ancient Egyptians used it to quiet crying babies. Dill seeds contain enzymes that relax GI muscles and ease cramps, gas, and bloating. The herb increases bile production to improve digestion as well.

Modern studies confirm dill’s antimicrobial effects on certain bacteria and fungi. Extracts of dill leaves, seeds, and stems show antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and cholesterol-lowering effects too. Dill-infused oils or tea can also provide relief from coughs and colds.

Interesting Facts About Dills

Fresh bunch of green dill herb
Fresh bunch of green dill herb

Beyond its medicinal benefits, dill has quite a fascinating history. Here are some quirky tidbits:

1. Dills Have Ancient Origins

Pickling cucumbers dates back thousands of years! Archeologists have found evidence of pickling as far back as 2400 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. Dill specifically has been used for pickling since at least the 1st century AD in ancient Rome.

2. They’re Packed With Probiotics

Dill pickles are often fermented in a brine, which allows healthy probiotic bacteria to develop. The probiotics promote gut health and digestion. No wonder pickles are such a popular snack!

3. Dill Has Medicinal Uses

Dill has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. Ancient Egyptian doctors used dill seed oil for headaches and to relieve anxiety. Dill is also thought to help with digestion and as a breath freshener.

4. Dill Pickles Are Low Calorie

Dills are naturally low in calories – only about 4 calories per spear! They make a nutritious, crunchy snack when you’re watching your weight. The vinegar brine keeps you feeling full too.

5. They Come in Lots of Varieties


There are countless types of pickled cucumbers beyond dill! Some popular varieties are bread-and-butter pickles, kosher dills, polish dills, and cornichons. The possibilities are endless when pickling cucumbers.

6. Dill Pickles Can Be Fried

Deep-fried pickles are a delicious, crunchy treat! Dill pickle spears or chips are dipped in batter and fried until golden and crispy. Perfect at summer cookouts or as an appetizer.

7. Pickles Are Big Business

The global pickle market was valued at over $13 billion USD in 2020. That’s a lot of pickles! Dill pickles are the most popular variety in North America.

8. They Have Starring Roles in Pop Culture

Pickles has made many cameo appearances in TV, movies, and music over the years. From the Pickle Rick episode of Rick and Morty to the Pickle Surprise video that went viral on YouTube.

9. Pickle Juice Has Health Benefits

Drinking small amounts of pickle juice has become a health trend. The vinegar is thought to relieve muscle cramps, aid digestion, and help manage diabetes. Pickle brine is also used as an electrolyte drink.

10. You Can Make Them at Home

With just cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and dill, you can easily make dill pickles at home! Refrigerator pickles take only a few days. For long term storage, use a hot water bath canner to make shelf-stable jars of pickles.

The Role of Dills in Cooking

Fried potato slices with dill on plate
Fried potato slices with dill on plate

From ancient Rome to modern American diners, dill has played an important role in cuisine across time and geography. Here are some of the most popular ways it is used:

  • Pickling – No food is more associated with dill than pickles! The herb is crucial in pickling vegetables to give that signature flavor in dill pickles, pickled beets, asparagus, green beans, and more. A few sprigs in pickle brine provide potent flavor.
  • Fish Dishes – Salmon, trout, tuna, herring, and other fish get a flavor boost from fresh or dried dill. Scandinavians often cure gravlox salmon by burying it with salt, sugar, and dill. In Russia, dill goes into curing Black Sea salmon for the iconic dish known as lax.
  • Breads – In Europe, dill seeds frequently go into rye bread recipes. The seeds provide tang and interest to the dense, dark bread. Burnt dill seeds mixed with salt are known as dill pollen and can add intrigue when dusted on bread.
  • Potatoes – In Germany, dill sauce served on boiled potatoes is comfort food at its finest. Dill weed mingles with sour cream, vinegar or yogurt for a cooling contrast to the starchy potatoes.
  • Salads – Fresh dill leaves lend a distinct flavor when chopped and sprinkled over green salads, pasta salad, potato salad, or coleslaw. It pairs well with cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and eggs.
  • Soups – A finishing sprinkling of dill brings a fresh herbal note to creamy potato soup, chilled cucumber soup, or traditional borscht. It also complements chicken noodle soup.
  • Cheeses – Soft cheeses absorb dill’s flavor beautifully. Mix in fresh dill weed or dry seeds into goat cheese or cream cheese spreads. Sprinkle on top of cottage cheese.
  • Poultry & Eggs– Stuff whole dill sprigs into the cavity before roasting chicken or turkey for moist, flavorful meat. Dill brightens up deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches.
  • Vegetables – Toss chopped dill over cooked carrots, squash, zucchini, beets, cucumbers, cabbage or cauliflower. It brings out their sweetness.
  • Dips – Blend chopped dill into creamy dips for chips or vegetables. It enlivens yogurt dips, sour cream veggie dips, and leans into the tang of feta or goat cheese dips.

Dills Around the World

Cultures around the globe have made dill a culinary staple:

Chopped fresh dill on a cutting Board and a bunch of dill
Chopped fresh dill on a cutting Board and a bunch of dill
  • Scandinavia – Dill enjoys immense popularity here, used in curing salmon, making gravlax, flavoring cheeses and yogurts, and pickling cucumbers.
  • Russia – Called “fool’s parsley”, dill is a key herb in borscht, rye bread, and fish dishes. Russians use both seeds and leaves generously.
  • Germany – From vegetable casseroles to pickled gherkins to dill sauce served on meat and potatoes, the herb is ubiquitous in German cooking.
  • Greece – Ancient Greeks made wreaths with dill to wear at banquets for digestion and prevention of drunkenness. Today it flavors dolmades, tzatziki, salads, and meat.
  • Poland – Dill complements Poland’s cuisine of cured meats, sausages, borscht, and rye bread. A dill forest features in Slavic folklore as a place of magic and secrets.
  • England – While understated compared to European cuisine, the English use dill to flavor eggs, whitefish, lamb, salads, and cream-based sauces.
  • India – Called “soya” in Hindi, dill seeds season curry dishes, yogurt raitas, chutneys and rice pilafs, while leaves go in stews and lentils.
  • Vietnam – Vietnamese cooks use fresh dill herb as a garnish sprinkled over pho noodle soup, bun bo hue soup, and some sandwiches like bánh mì.
  • Ethiopia – Known as “venso”, ground dill seed combined with chilies, turmeric and other spices create the quintessential Ethiopian spice blend called berbere.
  • Mexico – While less common than cilantro, dill weed has been embraced to flavor tacos, salsa, guacamole, and sprinkle over soups.

Growing and Harvesting Dills

Growing Dills

Want to grow your own tasty dill? Here are some tips:

  • Soil – Plant dill in fertile, well-draining soil. Mix in compost before planting and side-dress growing plants with organic fertilizer to keep soil nutrient-rich.
  • Sun – Dill thrives in full sun. It can tolerate partial shade but produces best with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Planting – After the last spring frost, sow dill seeds directly in the ground 1⁄4 inch deep and 12 inches apart. Cover lightly with soil.
  • Water – Keep soil consistently moist, providing 1 inch of water per week. Add mulch to help retain moisture. Dill roots deeply so don’t let it dry out.
  • Container Growing – You can grow dill in containers at least 12 inches deep. Use potting mix and position where it gets sun. However, it may not thrive as well as planting in garden beds.
  • Companion Planting – Dill gets along well with lettuce, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, corn, and carrots. Its flowers attract beneficial wasps and predatory flies that eat garden pests.
  • Pests – Deer, slugs, and aphids may attack dill. Companion planting helps control insects while fencing keeps deer away. Insecticidal soap can control severe infestations.
  • Harvesting Leaves – Snip dill leaves anytime after the plant reaches 6 inches tall. Harvest early in the day after the dew dries for the best flavor.
  • Harvesting Seeds – Allow dill to flower and after the heads turn brown, cut them off into paper bags, dry, and shake out the seeds.
  • Storing – Either air dry dill leaves or freeze them for future use. To dry seeds, place them in glass jars in a dark, dry spot.

The Impact of Dills on the Environment

When grown mindfully, dill can have ecological benefits:

  • As an annual, dill regrows from seed every year which allows the roots to enrich and aerate soil each season when they break down.
  • Dill flowers support biodiversity by attracting bees, wasps, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinating insects to gardens.
  • Intercropping dill with compatible vegetables like lettuce reduces pests so fewer pesticides are needed.
  • Dill self-seeds readily, allowing denser planting compared to other herbs. This also reduces soil erosion.
  • Certain conventional dill farming practices use excess water for irrigation and nitrogen fertilizers that can run off into water systems. Overall, dill has the potential to regenerate soil and support ecosystems when grown using organic practices.

Dills in Popular Culture

Beyond its culinary fame, dill has popped up in arts and culture:

Dill in TV Shows

Dill is sometimes referenced in TV shows as an insult meaning a foolish or stupid person. For example, in American Dad, Stan calls Steve “dill weed”. The herb is also referenced in its literal sense in cooking shows when used as an ingredient.

Dill in Movies

Dill makes brief appearances in a few movies, where characters use “dill weed” as an insult, like in Bad Grandpa[. It is also referenced in To Kill a Mockingbird, as one of the main characters is named Dill.

Dill in Folklore and Symbolism

  • Historically, dill has been associated with protection and luck. Dill was thought to ward off evil spirits and witches.
  • In Europe, brides often carried dill flowers or wore them in their bouquets. This symbolized happiness in marriage and enduring love].
  • Displaying fresh dill flowers in the home was considered good luck and a way to ensure happiness[4].
  • Dill seeds were referred to as “meetinghouse seeds” because people would chew them during long church services to stay awake.

Versatility of Dills

Versatility of Dills

Beyond pickling, dill has many versatile uses:

  • Beverages – Add dill leaves and seeds to lemonade, iced tea, vodka cocktails, and cordials for flavor. Infuse vodka with fresh dill in Mason jars for 21 days and strain to make dill-infused vodka.
  • Vinegars -Steep sprigs of dill in vinegar for 3-4 weeks to impart flavor. White wine vinegars work especially well. Dill vinegar pairs deliciously with fish, potatoes, or drizzled over vegetables.
  • Oils – Add chopped dill to olive oil or grapeseed oil and allow to infuse for 2-3 weeks before straining out the leaves. Use dill oil to drizzle over grilled meats, salads, and dips.
  • Herbal Remedies – Drink dill tea by steeping seeds or leaves to soothe digestive issues or coughs. Make a poultice with leaves to treat headaches or muscle pains by applying to skin.
  • Pest Control – Add a few drops of dill essential oil to water and spray on plants to deter spider mites, aphids, and fungus. Mix ground seeds with kaolin clay powder and dust on plants as natural insecticide.
  • Cooking Spice – Use dried dill leaves or seeds to season meat rubs, marinades, bread dough, and spice blends like curry powder, garam masala, ras el hanout, or za’atar.
  • Pollen – Collect and dry the pollen from dill flowers to use as a unique spice dust that adds intrigue sprinkled on everything from roast chicken to deviled eggs.
  • Pickling Spice – Add whole dill heads, seeds, leaves or stems to pickling brines and pickled vegetables for authentic flavor. Dill pickles, of course, are a prime example.
  • Butter & Cheese – Mix in freshly chopped dill to flavored butter or cheeses like goat cheese log, feta cheese balls, and herb cream cheese spreads.


After millennia of use across cultures worldwide, it’s clear humans have an affinity for the unique tang and fragrance of delightful dill. Beyond its signature role in pickles, dill has broad culinary applications across appetizers, bread, eggs, meat, seafood, salads, and vegetables. Dill tea and oils also have soothing medicinal benefits. Next time you enjoy dill’s anise-like flavor, remember the intriguing history behind this aromatic herb. With proper care, dill can also be easily grown at home for a steady supply of fresh leaves and seeds. Exploring new ways to cook with dill opens up possibilities for enhancing dishes with its special flavor and flair.

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