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 to a dish. Dill is also good in salads and is the key ingredient, along with buttermilk, in giving homemade ranch dressing its unique flavor.
Dill tastes grassy with a bit of anise-like licorice flavor. Be aware that once the weather turns hot, dill plants flower or “bolt.” This bolting changes the flavor of the leaves, making them less aromatic and more bitter. Dill seed tastes like a mild version of caraway.
Dill immediately brings to mind dill pickles and potato salad today, but it has had a place for centuries in cuisines throughout Europe and Asia. Dill leaves are known as the dill weed herb, while dill seed is used as a spice. Fresh dill is in season in spring and early summer, but it is often grown in greenhouses so it is available year-round.
What Does It Taste Like?
The dill plant (Anethum graveolens) provides feathery green leaves for the dill weed herb, while the flat, oval fruits make the dill seed spice. It’s an annual herb related to celery 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 used in seasoning, such as in pickles. Like chervil, dill weed is delicate and works particularly well with eggs or in salads.
You will find dried dill weed sold in the spice section of the supermarket, but the flavor is a pale substitute for fresh dill weed. If that is all you can source, use more of the dried herb to get dill flavor in your recipe. Dill seed will also be sold in dried form and that is acceptable for all uses for the seeds.
When used in cooking, dill weed will lose flavor the longer it is cooked, so it should be added at the last minute only. The opposite is true for dill seed, which develops more aroma and flavor when heated. Recipes often call dill seed to be toasted in a hot frying pan before being added. As well, dill seeds are often used in pickling.
Poison hemlock ingestion is often fatal. Sheep may be poisoned by eating as little as 4-8 oz. of green leaves. Cattle that eat 10-16 oz. may be affected. Signs usually appear within an hour after an animal eats the plant. Animals die from respiratory paralysis in 2 to 3 hours. Convulsions, which are common in waterhemlock poisoning, seldom occur with poison hemlock.
How water hemlock affects livestock:
The toxic substance in water hemlock is cicutoxin, a highly poisonous unsaturated alcohol that has a strong carrot-like odor. It is found principally in the tubers but is also present in the leaves, stems, and immature seeds. Leaves and stems lose most of their toxicity as they mature.
Where and when poison hemlock grows:
Water hemlock may be confused with poison hemlock because of their similar flowers. However, these two are different plants and cause different types of poisoning. (See poison hemlock chapter in this fact sheet.)
The toxins include a combination of a number of sugars and at least six different steroidal amines combined to form a variety of glycoalkaloids. One example is the toxin solanine. Potatoes are included with this group because the vines are toxic and tubers that have been exposed to light can be toxic to livestock. Drying does not destroy the toxin.
Because of its attractive flowers, poison hemlock was brought to the U.S. from Europe as a garden plant but has escaped cultivation and can be found growing in many pastures and in some areas on rangeland. Poison hemlock is found at roadsides, along fences and ditch banks, on edges of cultivated fields, along creekbeds and irrigation ditches, and in waste areas. It may invade fields or pastures.
All parts of poison hemlock–leaves, stem, fruit and root–are poisonous. Leaves are especially poisonous in spring up to the time the plant flowers. Fresh leaves are unpalatable, so livestock seldom eat hemlock when other feed is available. The toxic compounds are coniine, γ‑coniceine and related piperidine alkaloids.