Dill is a feathery green herb that packs an amazing amount of flavor that skirts the edges of grassy and anise. Like chervil, dill is delicate and works particularly well with eggs or in salads. It's an annual herb that tends to replant itself and spread widely, which is good to know if you're considering planting it in your garden.
Dill seeds are also used in seasoning (as with pickles!), but here we're going to focus on the fresh dill leaves as a culinary herb.
When Is Dill In Season?
Dill grows easily in greenhouses and hothouses, so it's not unusual to find it in well-stocked grocery stores all year long. That said, its natural season is spring and early summer. Once the weather turns hot, dill, like so many other green herbs and leaf lettuces, flowers or "bolts." This "bolting" changes the flavor of the dill's leaves, making them less aromatic and more bitter.
What to Look for When Buying Dill
Look for bunches of dill with fresh-cut stems and unwilted leaves. Dill fronds are airy and delicate, as such, they wilt and get bruised easily. So, don't just grab a bunch of dill and walk along. Take a took and make sure the leaves on the downside aren't bruised.
How to Store Dill
Once home, store stems of dill loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge and use within a day or two—dill tends to wilt and get mushy rather quickly after it's been picked.
If you want to try and store it a bit longer and you're willing to go to a wee bit of trouble, store a bunch of dill in a jar or glass of water (like flowers), then cover the top with plastic and put the whole thing in the fridge. Inelegant? Sure. But it works!
Dill doesn't keep much of its flavor if you dry it, but it freezes well. A good way to freeze it is to put the leaves in a blender or food processor. Pulse to finely chop the leaves and then add just enough water to just turn the chopped leaves into a paste. Spoon the paste into an ice cube tray, freeze, transfer the resulting cubes to a sealable plastic bag, and store in the freezer. Then add a dill ice cube anytime you want a burst of fresh dill flavor to soups or stews.
How to Use Fresh Dill
Because it has such a unique taste, a small amount of dill can go a long way, which is why dill is so good to use as a garnish. The feathery texture of dill leaves looks beautiful and a small sprig of dill can add a noticeable aroma when used as a garnish. Try it on Gravlax, Beet Cabbage Borscht, or Chilled Beet Soup. It's also good on any cold soup featuring cucumbers or yogurt, or in or on tzatziki, the traditional Greek cucumber yogurt salad.
Dill is also good in salads and is the key ingredient, along with buttermilk, in giving homemade ranch dressing its unique flavor.
While a delicate hand is one way to go with dill, for those who love it, tossing in a handful or two of fresh dill isn't always a bad idea. Use it in ample doses to add its grassy freshness to any tossed green salad, knowing it's particularly good with butter lettuce or mâche (lamb's lettuce).
For those who truly love dill, more substantive dill-centric recipes include Spinach Dill Pilaf and Dill Mint Lemon Pesto, a springy take on pesto that's delicious on fresh fish or grilled vegetables.