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To enrich the overview of the herbs to be included in the garden, let's try to get to know dill, a plant that is easily found in our territories in the wild, in the plains and hills up to 600 meters above sea level.
Its intense aroma, reminiscent of that of anise and cumin, is particularly enhanced by the cuisine of northern Europe, from which we could draw inspiration for new recipes or reinterpretations of those already known, using both seeds and leaves for this purpose.
But now let's see how to grow this aromatic species in a natural, simple and efficient way, starting from sowing to harvesting the leaves.
The dill plant
Due to the great similarity between the two plants, it is easy to confuse dill with wild fennel, and for this reason dill is also called "bastard fennel" or "fetid fennel". The dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Umbelliferae or Apiacea family, already known for parsley, carrot, fennel and celery.
It features a stem that it can reach 50-60 cm in height or even beyond, it is hollow inside and furrowed, light green in color and with bitter-tasting leaves. The flowering of the dill occurs throughout the summer until September, and the flowers are small, yellow and gathered in the typical compound umbrella inflorescences, or rather an umbrella of umbrellas, which smell pleasantly. Fruits are generated from the flowers formed by two small yellow achenes.
How it is grown
Growing dill is simple, there are no special precautions, but some basic rules must be respected, such as the choice of a position in the sun and the administration of constant irrigation, even if moderate. In fact, it is an aromatic herb that is different from other more resistant to drought such as rosemary and sage.
Dill is a species lover of the sun, with which it produces more essential oil, for this reason it is necessary to think carefully about a position that is illuminated and protected from the winds. Also want hot temperatures, it suffers from the cold and above all from the frost of winter, and in summary we can say that the temperature range it prefers is between 15 and 25 ° C.
The sowing of dill
Dill is a species that lends itself to gradual sowing, to be carried out between April and the end of summer, directly in the vegetable garden on the chosen space. We can choose between the technique of broadcasting, especially ideal if there is little space and we want to optimize it, or in rows 30-40 cm apart. When the seedlings have emerged, however, it will be necessary to thin out, leaving a space of 15-20 cm between one specimen and another.
The soil in both cases must first be worked carefully and amended with compost. No particular additional fertilizations are required, considering that the aromatics want lean soils.
If it is good in the place of sowing, dill it tends to re-seed itself autonomously, also becoming a pest. For this reason it is advisable to collect the seeds in time for sowing the following year, so as to decide where to sow it and not let it colonize the spaces it wants, but for this purpose it is important to distance it from the wild fennel, otherwise there is a strong risk of hybridization between the two related species.
Dill lends itself well to intercropping with cucumbers, but also with broad beans, which are more protected from aphid attacks thanks to this proximity.
The soil must be well drained, but watering must be frequent and regular, in order to ensure lush growth of the seedlings, and this is even more true in any pot cultivation.
Mulching with organic material such as straw, dry leaves, wilted grass or other natural material helps to keep the soil moist for a long time, as well as curbing the growth of unwanted grass.
Still small dill seedlings can be a welcome snail meal. If we notice their presence, it is advisable to put a few strips of ash around the portion of land affected by the dill, beer traps or a few small handfuls of iron orthophosphate, a slugicide also allowed in organic farming.
Any aphids which can appear in colonies on the stems and shoots they deal with Marseille soap sprayed on the affected parts, or preventively with do-it-yourself extracts of garlic, chilli and nettle, which are used to protect all plants from these parasites.
Collection and use of dill
We can collect the young and tender leaves of the dill, which finely minced are used to flavor soups, cooked vegetables, mixed salads and meat dishes. Dill contains up to 4% of essential oil and up to 18% of other oils, hence the intense smell of the leaves and their slightly spicy taste. By freezing the dill leaves many of the properties are lost, so we recommend gradual sowing: in this way we will always have fresh leaves to harvest. Dill, like fennel, helps digestion and limits the effects of meteorism.
With i seeds instead, we can flavor sauerkraut or pickled vegetables, but also baked cakes and biscuits, to which they give that unmistakable note.
To get the seeds, the umbrellas are collected and dried wrapped in a breathable cloth in a shaded and ventilated room or veranda. Once dry, the umbrellas fight to separate the fruit-seeds, which must be placed in hermetically sealed jars.