Dill





(Anethum graveolens, Linn.), a hardy annual, native of the

Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, smaller than common fennel,

which it somewhat resembles both in appearance and in the flavor of the

green parts, which are, however, less agreeable.



In ancient times it was grown in Palestine. The word translated, "anise"

in Matthew xxiii, 23, is said to have been "dill" in the original Greek.

It was well known in Pliny's time, and is often discussed by writers in

the middle ages. According to American writings, it has been grown in

this country for more than 100 years and has become spontaneous in many

places.



Description.--Ordinarily the plants grow 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall. The

glaucous, smooth, hollow, branching stems bear very threadlike leaves

and in midsummer compound umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose

small petals are rolled inward. Very flat, pungent, bitter seeds are

freely produced, and unless gathered early are sure to stock the garden

with volunteer seedlings for the following year. Under fair storage

conditions, the seeds continue viable for three years. They are rather

light; a quart of them weighs about 11 ounces, and an ounce is said to

contain over 25,000 seeds.



Cultivation.--Where dill has not already been grown seed may be sown

in early spring, preferably in a warm sandy soil, where the plants are

to remain. Any well-drained soil will do. The drills should be 1 foot

apart, the seeds scattered thinly and covered very shallow; a bed 12

feet square should supply abundance of seed for any ordinary family. To

sow this area 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of seed is ample. For field use the rows

may be 15 inches apart and the seed sown more thinly. It should not be

covered much more than 1/4 inch. Some growers favor fall sowing, because

they claim the seed is more likely to germinate than in the spring, and

also to produce better plants than spring-sown seed.



At all times the plants must be kept free from weeds and the soil loose

and open. When three or four weeks old the seedlings are thinned to 9

inches, or even a foot apart. As soon as the seed is ripe, shortly after

midsummer, it must be gathered with the least possible shaking and

handling, so as to prevent loss. It is well to place the stems as cut

directly in a tight-bottomed cart or a wheelbarrow, with a canvas

receptacle for the purpose, and to haul direct to the shade where drying

is to occur. A good place for this is a barn, upon the floor of which a

large canvas sheet is spread, and where a free circulation of air can be

secured. (See page 28.)



Uses.--The French use dill for flavoring preserves, cakes and pastry.

For these purposes it is of too strong and pronounced a character to be

relished by American palates. The seeds perhaps more often appear in

soups, sauces and stews, but even here they are relished more by our

European residents than by native Americans. Probably they are most used

in pickles, especially in preserving cucumbers according to German

recipes. Thousands of barrels of such pickles are sold annually, more

especially in the larger cities and to the poorer people; but as this

pickle is procurable at all delicatessen stores, it has gained great

popularity among even the well-to-do. An oil is distilled from the seeds

and used in perfuming soap. The young leaves are said to be used in

pickles, soups and sauces, and even in salads. For the last purpose they

are rather strong to suit most people, and for the others the seeds are

far more popular.



Dill vinegar is a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the

seed in good vinegar for a few days before using. The quantity of

ingredients to use is immaterial. Only a certain amount of the flavor

can be dissolved by the vinegar, and as few samples of vinegar are

alike, the quantities both to mix and of the decoction to use must be

left to the housewife. This may be said, however, that after one lot of

seed has been treated the vinegar may be poured off and the seeds

steeped a second time to get a weaker infusion. The two infusions may

then be mixed and kept in a dark cupboard for use as needed.





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