Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a short-lived perennial herb. It is the sole species of the genus Anethum, though classified by some botanists in a related genus as Peucedanum graveolens (L.) C.B.Clarke.
It grows to 1 inch, with slender stems and alternate, finely divided, softly delicate leaves long. The ultimate leaf divisions are broad, slightly broader than the similar leaves of fennel, which are threadlike, less than broad, but harder in texture. The flowers are white to yellow, in small umbels diameter. The seeds are long and thick, and straight to slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface.
Dill originated in Eastern Europe. Zohary and Hopf remark that "wild and weedy types of dill are widespread in the Mediterranean basin and in West Asia."
Although several twigs of dill were found in the tomb of Amenhotep II, they report that the earliest archeological evidence for its cultivation comes from late Neolithic lake shore settlements in Switzerland. Traces have been found in Roman ruins in Great Britain.
In Semitic languages it is known by the name of Shubit. The Talmud requires that tithes shall be paid on the seeds, leaves, and stem of dill. The Bible states that the Pharisees were in the habit of paying dill as tithe; Jesus is said to have rebuked them for tithing dill but omitting mercy.
In the northeastern U.S. and adjoining parts of Canada, the seed of dill is sometimes known as "meeting-seed". This expression originates with the Puritans and Quakers, who would give their children dill seeds to chew during long church meetings, due to dill's mild hunger-suppressant qualities.
In some English-speaking countries, it is sometimes called Dillby. In some Asian local languages it is called as "Shepu" or "Sowa". In Kannada it is called Sapseege soppu (ಸಪ್ಪಸೀಗೆ ಸೊಪ್ಪು). The term dill weed (dillweed), to refer to a person, is sometimes used as a euphemism in the United States and Canada for more vulgar terms of contempt.
Like caraway, its fernlike leaves are aromatic, and are used to flavor many foods, such as gravlax (cured salmon), borscht and other soups, and pickles (where sometimes the dill flower is used). Dill is said to be best when used fresh, as it loses its flavor rapidly if dried; however, freeze-dried dill leaves preserve their flavor relatively well for a few months.
In Vietnam, dill is the important herb in the dish cha ca.
Dill seed is used as a spice, with a flavor somewhat similar to caraway, but also resembling that of fresh or dried dill weed.
Dill oil can be extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant.
Dill seeds were traditionally used to soothe the stomach after meals.
Successful cultivation requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; even partial shade will reduce the yield substantially. It also prefers rich, well drained soil. The seeds are viable for 3-10 years. Plants intended for seed for further planting should not be grown near fennel, as the two species can hybridise.
The seed is harvested by cutting the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. The seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag and left in a warm dry place for a week. The seeds then separate from the stems easily for storage in an airtight container.