According to folklore and now used in complimentary medicine, dill is thought to be calming and toning for the digestive system. It is also believed to act as a diuretic (rid excess fluid from the body) and help control infection. Like other fresh herbs, dill is rich in flavonoids which act as anti-oxidants for the body.
Clockwise from top left: Basil, Continental Parsley, Parsley, Mint, Coriander & Dill
Look for fragrant, ferny leaves with a good green colour. Don't be put off by a drooping appearance however - the fine, feathery leaf is soft and will accordingly tend to hang.
Fresh dill should be eaten within a couple of days of purchase and can be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl of water or wrapped in tissue paper or foil.
To prepare, rinse fresh dill leaves and chop with sharp scissors or pick from stems and sprinkle over foods for a subtle, distinctive flavour. Dill is sometimes likened to fennel or parsley, although it is sweeter and more aromatic. Its subtle flavour makes it the perfect partner for fish, notably salmon. It also makes excellent wine vinegar.
The name comes from the Norse world 'dilla' which means to lull - a reference to the soothing properties of the plant. During the Middle Ages, dill was regarded as a good luck charm to ward off practices of witchcraft and has its earliest mention in old Egyptian, Greek and Roman texts as well as in the Bible.
The English physician, Culpeper, recognised its value as a cure for flatulence and colic, writing in 1653: "It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine...and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind and the pains proceeding therefrom." A native of Southern Europe, dill is today found all over the world.