Related to carrots, celery, parsley, parsnip and numerous other vegetables and culinary herbs from the Apiaceae family, dill (Anethum graveolens) is a wonderful aromatic herb and a rich source of essential nutrients, namely vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folate and vitamin C as well as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Both fresh and dried dill leaves are extremely nutritious and contribute greatly to keeping in good health.
Dill essential oil, concentrating all the biologically active chemical constituents of the herb, possesses additional antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Nevertheless, the herb is best consumed fresh because cooking heat or other forms of preparation can and will influence its nutritional value and health effects.
What does dill look like? Dill is a garden herb that grows up to 50-80 cm in height. Each plant has several hollow, branched green stems with tiny, needle-like, deep green, feathery leaves ranging from 5 to 20 cm in length. The uppermost leaves are the smallest. If left to flower, dill plants will produce tiny, yellowish flowers at the top of fine green stalks, arranged in the form of an either flat or rounded umbrella. To be honest, to me, flowering dill plants look somewhat like fireworks, while dill leaves remind me of fennel fuzz.
What does dill taste and smell like? Dill has a unique flavor, quite difficult to put into words. The fresh leaves have a mildly sharp, green taste with a delicate, sweet crunch. Dried dill leaves are much more flavored and have a soft, anise-like taste. Dill seeds taste and smell somewhat like caraway seeds, probably because both contain an essential oil called carvone (see more herbs and spices here). The leaves are often referred to as dill weed.
Fresh dill goes well with all recipes requiring a fresh, green, soft flavor: soups, stews, salads, salmon, pickles, new potatoes salad, cucumber, lettuce and tomato salad etc. My absolute favorite is a cabbage and carrot salad with fresh dill: chop or grate a small white or green cabbage, add 3 medium-sized grated carrots, 3-4 spoons of sunflower oil, 1-2 spoons of vinegar, season with salt and mix with half a bunch of finely chopped fresh dill.
Dill is healthiest fresh. Any form of cooking heat contributes to a more or less pronounced loss of vitamins, reducing its nutritional and health value. Both essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and natural chemical constituents contribute to the herb’s beneficial action on human health:
1) Great source of vitamin C. Fresh dill contains 85 mg of vitamin C per 100 g, making it a great source of the nutrient. While it needs to be consumed in small amounts, sprinkling half a handful of the herb over a cucumber, tomato and lettuce salad can help elevate your daily intake and bring you closer to obtaining health benefits such as lower inflammation levels, better immunity and a firmer, wrinkle-free skin as a result of improved collagen production.
2) Rich in B vitamins. 100 g of fresh dill contains generous amounts of almost all B vitamins, notably thiamin (0.58 mg), riboflavin (0.29 mg or 25% of daily requirements for the average adult), niacin (1.57 mg, a little over 10%), pantothenic acid (0.4 mg), vitamin B6 (0.18 or around 15%) and folate (150 µg or about 35%). B vitamins are required by the body for good digestive health and contribute to the synthesis of carbohydrates, an important step in producing energy for the body.
3) Contributes to bone and cardiovascular health. Dill contains fairly generous amounts of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, three essential nutrients for bone health. Calcium and phosphorus make up most of our bone structure, while magnesium ensures the calcium we ingest via food or supplements goes into our bones and teeth to make them stronger, rather than into joints, blood vessel walls or heart valves where it may causes serious health problems in the long term.
4) Boasts antioxidant properties. Dill provides around 60% of the recommended daily allowance of manganese (1.3 mg) as well as generous amounts of vitamin C (85 mg), both of which are powerful antioxidants. Manganese, for example, is part of a sort of innate antioxidant defense mechanism of the human body, the enzyme superoxide dismutase, protecting us against harmful free radicals.
5) Contributes to digestive health. Eating dill regularly can help improve intestinal transit time and relieve constipation. This, in turn, can improve hemorrhoid problems, all as a result of the dietary fiber content of the herb.
6) Natural anti-inflammatory. According to research, carvone and limonene, two constituents in dill and its essential oil have exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity in animal models. Essential oil and extracts from the aerial parts and seeds possess the greatest anti-inflammatory power (The Study of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Oil-Based Dill (Anethum graveolens L.) Extract Used Topically in Formalin-Induced Inflammation Male Rat Paw). Celery is also a great source of carvone.
7) Antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Dill and dill essential oil have been found to inhibit the growth of molds and yeasts such as Candida albicans and Aspergillus species, both of which may cause potentially serious health problems.
Naturally-occurring chemical constituents in dill and its essential oil, namely d-limonene and d-carvone, boast quite potent antimicrobial properties (Composition, quality control, and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of long-time stored dill (Anethum graveolens L.) seeds from Bulgaria). Limonene has also been found to possess impressive anticancer properties and is currently being used for the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux.