The wispy fragrant dill leaves are known for their subtle flavour, but did you know that they have innumerable health benefits as well? Naini Setalvad lists some of them
Dill leaves reminds me of my pregnant friends who were fed with suva (dill) all through their pregnancy. Most of them roasted the seeds and had it as a mukhwas (mouth freshener), mixed with sesame seeds and fennel seeds as this is believed to promote lactation. You can use it in different ways, one of the most mouthwatering being dill potato salad. In many Indian cuisines, dill is used with other vegetables as well. Sindhis use it in their delicious signature dish, sai bhaji.
Dill or suva, as it is known to us, is a unique plant that belongs to the same family as parsley, cumin and bay. Both leaves and seeds are used as a seasoning. The green leaves of dill are wispy and fernlike, and have a sweet and sharp flavour. Dried dill seeds are light brown in colour and oval in shape, with one flat side and one convex ridged side. Dill is an extremely popular herb all over the world.
The leaves of dill have the fragrance of lemon and anise. The taste, however, is a mild, yet sustained mix of parsley and anise. The seeds have a hint of sweetness due to its essential oils, slightly sharp, and with lingering warmth.
Fresh dill is available mainly from November to March. It is best to avoid it during the monsoon, to avert the possibility of it being pest-infested. Originating from the Mediterranean region, and Eastern Europe, dill is available richly in these places and some other parts of the world as well. It is used to add a tangy twist to salads, pickles, and most commonly fish and seafood. One could also use it to season sauces and dips for its irresistible aroma.
Apart from its fragrance and lactation-promoting properties, it has numerous health benefits.
o It is a highly potent antioxidant that protects the body from free radical attack.
o The essential oils present in dill have an anti-carcinogenic effect, and helps the body to protect against cancers.
o It also has anti-bacterial properties, and prevents bacterial overgrowth.
o Dill is rich in calcium, and is important for reducing the bone loss that occurs after menopause, and in some health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
o Dill contains dietary fibres which assist in the control of blood cholesterol levels as well as blood
o Many Indian women are anaemic. Adding dill leaves to your food can boost iron levels.
o Dill also has a good amount of magnesium, and therefore is good for bones. It is an extremely powerful antioxidant, thus detoxifying your body, and clearing your skin.
o Dill contains the right amount of zinc, which helps growth and development as well as digestion.
o Dill is also rich in Vitamins A and C, making them anti-oxidants and healthy for the eyes, skin, stomach lining and blood.
o It is an effective ingredient of gripe water used for treating babies with colic.
o Dill is a zero-cholesterol plant, containing dietary fibres which assist in the control of blood cholesterol levels.
Culinary uses all over the world:
- Maharashtrians make a tasty vegetable with roasted gram dal and dill.
- Dill is a popular ingredient in raita.
- Iranian food includes dill leaves as well as seeds. For instance, they use it to flavour a curry made of lentils
- Dill is also used to flavour seafood. In Scandinavia, herrings, crabs, scallops or prawns in a creamy dill sauce are much loved dishes. The seeds are also added to breads and salads.
- Dill is used with cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower and root vegetables in northern and central Europe.
- The traditional Russian beetroot soup, Borsch, sometimes contains dill. Beetroot could also be eaten
with a sauce made of dill and mustard combined with sour cream or yogurt.
- The leaves as well as the seeds can be pickled. One commonly finds dill in crunchy pickled cucumbers in little restaurants on New York streets.
- In our homes, we could use dill in salads and salad dressings, especially potato salad.
Many Indian women are anaemic. Adding a handful of dill leaves to your food can boost iron levels
How to buy and store
The best fresh dill leaves are the ones that look crisp and fresh. If left for too long, the leaves begin to wilt, even if they are in the refrigerator. Dried leaves retain their flavour for a year in an airtight container, whereas the seeds maintain their flavour for about two years. Powdered dill seeds, however, do not stay very long. An interesting fact to note is that freezing preserves the dill’s flavour more effectively than drying.
If you want to dry fresh dill, simply spread the leaves on a cloth. Store this in a warm, ventilated place for a few days. These dried leaves would maintain a degree of the aroma as well as the flavour of the fresh leaves.
Those with their own gardens could plant some dill, adhering to these simple steps: Sow some seeds in spring, choosing a sheltered spot with ample sun. Water it well. Sowing successively reaps plants throughout the season. Do keep the following in mind, however, when you plant your dill. The seedlings are frail, so deweed regularly. Also, the dill plant has a long tap root which could get damaged while being transplanted, so do it as gently as possible.
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