By Bonnie L. Grant
Dill weed is an essential flavoring for pickling. The feathery, fresh young leaves add a delicate flavor to fish, potatoes and sauces and yield thick stems at maturity. The plant bolts in high heat and produces umbrella-shaped flower appendages topped with hard little seeds. The herb literally grows “like a weed,” which is the genesis of the name dill weed. Learn how to harvest dill and how to store dill weed to keep the delicate flavor around all year.
How to Harvest Dill
Dill weed is preserved by drying the leaves, seeds or entire stem of the herb. Use pruners or sharp scissors when harvesting dill weed for drying. Cut just the leafy foliage or remove entire stems to dry for canning and seeds. Remove the stems when the seeds are brown and ripe.
Dill flavor is best when it just begins to flower. Wash the herbs after harvesting dill weed to remove dirt and insects.
How to Dry Dill
Dill weed refers to the greenish blue leaves of the herb, while dill seeds are just the seeds of the dill plant. The overall name of dill is used to describe the entire plant.
Dill weed is delicate even when fresh and should be added to dishes at the end of the cooking process to preserve the light, grassy flavor. Dry dill weed leaves lose some of their pungency and require more of the seasoning to produce the same flavor profile as fresh. Dill seeds are more flavorful and are often used where a stronger dill flavor is desired, such as in pickling.
Drying Dill Seeds
Drying dill seeds actually accentuates their flavor and ensures a supply of seasoning for the next pickle-canning.
You can bunch dry dill seeds by tying the stems together and hanging the herbs upside down. Keep the bunches lightly bundled so air can circulate. Cover the bunches with paper bags that have been liberally punched with holes on the side. The bags will catch the seeds as they dry, along with any pieces of leaf.
Drying Dill Weed
Dill leaves or dill weed are used dried as a crushed aromatic. The flavor is very light but the aroma is strong and adds complexity to foods. Dry them by clipping off the individual leaflets and laying them in one layer on a dehydrator sheet or bakers rack. The leaves will dry in less than a day in a food dehydrator but will take several days on a bakers rack in a warm, dry location. Turn the leaves every day so they can become evenly exposed to the warm air.
How to Store Dill Weed
Crumble or crush the leaflets after they are completely dry. Herbs must be stored in a cool, dark area to avoid diminishing the color and flavor. Dry dill weed will keep for four to six months and can be used just like fresh dill leaves.