What is dill?

If you’re here because you’re looking for answers or food recommendations, you are not in luck. There are more questions here than answers, I’m afraid.

As I dive deeper into the world of food and flavour, I’m realising that I am a novice, part of the uninitiated masses. 

About a month back, I went for a Bombay Sapphire event (part of their Stir Creativity campaign) and was given the opportunity to create my own infused gin.

A whole selection of spices, fruits and botanicals were laid out and I could only recognise a handful. 

Besides the fruits, how many of these can you recognise?

“What’s this?” I asked. 

“It’s dill,” said the assisting bartender. 

Dill! I had eaten it before. I knew how it tasted. I had seen pictures of it. But how strange, I had no idea how it looked in real life. 

“What’s this?” I asked, pointing at another glass bowl. 

“Nutmeg.”

I’d only ever seen preserved nutmeg. I couldn’t believe how few of the spices I could recognise. And even the ones I could recognise, I didn’t know the name for. 

Cloves have always been, to me, “the nail-looking thing that tastes funny”. Star anise is “the star-looking thing that tastes funny”.

As you can see, I’m not entirely a fan of strong flavours (lol, thanks IBS) and may perhaps even be verbally challenged when it comes to food.

I lack the appropriate vocabulary to talk about how things taste. But biology, that I can handle.

Dill is a herb

(It’s also the nickname of a character in To Kill a Mockingbird but that’s irrelevant to the matter at hand.)

With a species name like Anethum graveolens, you can somewhat guess what sort of flavours dill offers.

The first half of the name (ie. the genus) “Anethum” apparently comes from the Latin form of the Greek word that was used for both “dill” and “anise” [source].

The second half (ie. the species) “graveolens” is a combination of two words – “gravis” and “olens” — which mean heavy smelling [source].

This makes a lot of sense. 

When I think about my experience with dill (usually with raw / smoked salmon), the first word that comes to mind is “green”. To me, dill has a very heavy, green smell with a hint of spiciness.

What’s interesting about dill?

Besides its use for adding flavour to a dish — think pierogi, yoghurt dressing and herb cheese — dill also has medicinal uses.

Dill leaves are rich in minerals – phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, just to name a few – and can be used to make tea [source].

When I think of dill, I usually remember its leafy bits.

Apparently, its seeds have anti-inflammatory properties and can even aid digestion.

From this one plant, we humans obtain a herb, a spice and an essential oil that contains biologically active compounds, which have antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant and anticancer properties.

Reading all this, my first though is, imagine what this plant can do if we manage to harness all of its abilities. There’s so much potential for drug development here.

And then I think, how human I am… my first thought is how I can harness the power of something, or how it can be of use to me. Humans are the worst!

But perhaps the solution to this is to be grateful, to appreciate what we have on Earth. There’s an abundance of other plants like dill, with properties that we haven’t even begun to discover yet. 

Don’t you want to find out what they can do? 

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