Food & Drink A dilly of a weed 

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Often the aesthetic properties of an herb and vegetable garden are as satisfying as the harvest. One of the loveliest winter herbs is fresh dill, with its feathery, fluffy foliage and dark, green-blue hue adding a visual softness to the transition from dying fall plants to the spring shoots that will come later. A hardy annual, dill doesn’t require much care, isn’t choosy about soil, and is fairly frost and drought resistant, making it an excellent herb for our relatively poor soil and unpredictable winters. The reason it is commonly called dill “weed” is that it grows like one, and the only problem with it as a decorative herb is its tendency to self-sow.

Dill grows easily from seed, germinating in a week a two. It is typically planted in early spring, but our climate allows for fall planting in October or November, with the pungent leaf tips ready for harvesting right about now. Snipped and tossed in a green salad, dill adds a wonderful aromatic tartness. It’s also excellent with buttered boiled potatoes, a common Northern European trick, fish and shellfish, and in creamy sauces and soups. One of my favorite dishes is a frittata-like Greek pita of chopped green beans, fresh spinach, zucchini, parsley, dill, and mint mixed with eggs, bread crumbs, and a combination of feta and kefalograviera (or Parmesan) cheese, topped with sesame seeds and baked until set and toasted on the top.

Once the plants bolt in early to mid-summer, let the blooms develop. They make beautiful yellow flower umbels that look like firecrackers exploding, and the bees love them. Unfortunately, so do aphids and Monarch caterpillars, so watch them closely. If you can let the seeds develop, dry them and plant them the following year or use them for pickling. Dill seeds are also widely available in the bulk herb section of your market.

Diana Roberts



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