Fresh dill weed is a popular complement to fish but can also be a pleasant addition to potato salad. Like the dill seed, dill weed works well with legumes but it is also enjoyable in coleslaw and is useful for flavoring dips. You can even use the seeds and the leaves of the dill plant together in some salad dressings and vinegars.
Like many herbs, the seeds and the leaves do have some similarities but they are not identical. The flavor of dill leaves is similar to that of parsley and anise with notes of lemon. While dill seeds do have the same notes of anise, they also have notes of caraway. The seeds’ flavor is more pungent and some cooks even consider it slightly bitter and reminiscent of camphor; on the other hand, the leaves’ flavor is more delicate. In addition to all that, dill seeds have a characteristic not found in dill weed: their flavor tends to become stronger when heated.
When making substitutions, you should also consider the difference in appearance between the seeds and the leaves. Some people find the appearance of dill weed in pickle brine to be unappetizing. If you are using dill weed instead dill seeds to flavor your pickles, you may want to chop it finely to make it less noticeable.
How are dill seeds and dill weed used differently in the kitchen?
In the United States, the most well known use of dill seeds is as the main flavoring in dill pickles; however, they are widely used in Indian, Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisines. Dill seeds are excellent when used in acidic dishes including pickled beets, carrots and even pickled fish. You can also add them to your lentil dal or use them with any other legume to aid digestion.
The dill plant is versatile in that you can use both the leaves and the seeds to provide flavor. “Dill weed” is the term used for the leaves; you can use them as an herb and use the seeds as a spice. Both forms of dill are essential for your spice collection as they are both popular ingredients in a number of different cuisines from all over the world. If you have encountered one or both forms of dill in your local supermarket, you may have wondered if there are any differences between the two. Do they have the same flavor? Can you use one in place of the other? Our Spiceography Showdown will provide you with answers.
Because of the flavor differences, the seeds and leaves of the dill plant are not ideal replacements for each other; however, it is possible in a pinch. Keep in mind that you will need to use different amounts when substituting one for the other. Three heads of dill weed is roughly equivalent to a single tablespoon of the seeds. In addition, bear in mind that the seeds stand up to longer cooking times better than the leaves. This means that if you are using dill weed in place of the seeds, it is best to add them towards the end of the cooking time rather than at the beginning.
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Dill prefers full sun in well-drained soil. It grows easily from seed in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in loose soil in the early spring. Make successive sowings every two to three weeks for a continuous supply. Successive sowings allow you to let the early plants mature so you can use the seeds when cucumbers are ready to pickle. Later plantings give you a supply of fresh dill weed throughout the season. In desert areas, plant dill in late summer and early fall to avoid extreme heat. Water newly planted dill to aid germination, and irrigate occasionally throughout the season to keep the soil from completely drying out. As seedlings grow, thin them to stand about 18 inches apart. An easy way to grow dill is to allow it to reseed directly in the garden.
Shake the dry dill seeds from the stems into a bowl, sorting out the stems for disposal. Store dried dill weed and dill seeds in airtight containers in the cupboard.
Harvest dill seeds from mature plants after the flowers set seeds. The flower umbrels become clusters of seeds that cling to the plant until they are completely mature. Snip off the seed heads when the seeds are brownish and dry before the seeds scatter. Hold a bag or large bowl under the heads and snip – let the seed heads drop into the container.
Common dill (Anethum graveolens) has naturalized in North America after its introduction from its native southwestern Asia. Dill is easy to grow, lending textural visual interest to the garden with its 3- to 4-ft tall, feathery foliage and 6-inch wide umbrels of bright yellow flowers. Dill foliage is food for black swallowtail caterpillars, so it is recommended as a host plant in butterfly gardens. But dill really shines in the kitchen. The sweetly pungent flavor is concentrated in both the leaves and the seeds, making dill a popular herb for a wide range of culinary uses. Dill weed is simply another name for dill foliage.
Wash fresh dill weed and drain it dry, chop it, then freeze it in small containers or freeze it flat on a baking sheet to transfer to small containers. To dry dill weed, loosely tie together a few branches at the base with string or a rubber band and hang the bundles upside-down in an airy location out of direct sun. Bruising the branches can cause spots of decay or mold, so handle the dill gently. You can also use an electric dehydrator to dry dill weed quickly. A dehydrator helps the dried leaves retain the bright green color of fresh dill.
Do you know how much dill seed is equivalent to one head of fresh dill?? I am going to make pickles, and fresh dill is not available. Thanks in advance for your help. – Judith Cartwright (8/22/01)
If you must substitute, see below:
Dill seed is not a good substitute for fresh dill weed because of the difference in flavor strength but it does depend on the recipe. The seed has a camphorous, slightly bitter flavor, and the weed has a delicate flavor. The differences are like night and day.
3 heads dill = 1 tablespoon dill seed
1/2 ounce dill seed = 1/2 cup fresh dill
3- to 5-inch sprig of fresh dill = 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill weed.