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Dill Herb of Year for 2010

At 18-inches tall, 'Fernleaf' dill does well in a container. Photo courtesy All-America Selections

At 18-inches tall, 'Fernleaf' dill does well in a container. Photo courtesy All-America Selections

One of the most versatile plants in the garden and one that ranks high for attracting pollinating insects has earned Herb of the Year for 2010.

The Herb Society of America selected dill (Anethum graveolens), a tender biennial that is usually grown from seed each year. Dill forms a taproot, making it difficult to transplant; however, seedlings can be found in garden centers in spring.

The ferny dill leaves are used to flavor fish, sauces, salads, potatoes and eggs and the seeds are used in pickling and vinegars. Seed from Indian dill (A. sowa), called sowa, is an ingredient in many curries.

Sow in full sun after the last frost, usually in mid-May. Sow seeds every couple of weeks to extend the harvest of the fresh leaves. Seed usually germinates within two weeks and harvesting can begin in about two months. Dill readily self sows.

Black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley. (C) iStockphoto

Black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley. (C) iStockphoto

The species gets about 4- to 5-feet tall and is topped with wide, umbel-shaped, yellowish flowers. This is there you’ll find bees and tiny beneficial wasps. You’ll also find swallowtails (Papilio) slurping up the nectar. Swallowtail caterpillars devour the leaves and stems. These caterpillars also like fennel, parsley and carrot leaves, which are all related to dill.

Cultivars to consider:

  • 'Dukat' dill. Photo courtesy Jung Seed.

    'Dukat' dill. Photo courtesy Jung Seed.

    ‘Dukat,’ bred in Denmark for Scandinavian food, has a sweet flavor, says Renee Shepherd, owner of Renee’s Garden Seeds. It gets about 2 feet tall, making it ideal for growing in a pot on the patio, porch or balcony. Seeds also are available from Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed, Jung Seed and others.

  • ‘Fernleaf,’ a 1992 All-America Selection, is appreciated for its short, stout nature. At 18-inches tall, this is another candidate for a pot. It is available at Park Seed, Burpee and others.
  • ‘Bouquet’ has large, 6-inch wide heads, making it a favorite for pickling seeds. It will get up to 3 feet tall and is available at Botanical Interests, Seeds of Change and others.

    'Bouquet' dill is prized for its large seed heads. Photo courtesy Seeds of Change

    'Bouquet' dill is prized for its large seed heads. Photo courtesy Seeds of Change

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