Monday, April 6, 2015


Dill Pickles. It seems like everyone, since the beginning of time, has had a jar of dill pickles in their fridge. Grab a cold, crispy pickle for a crunchy snack. Slice up a pickle to top off your burger in a bun. Chop up a pickle and add it to potato salad. Add slices of pickle in with a peanut butter sandwich. 

Hey, wait. What exactly is a pickle? Do you remember finding out as a youngster that your dill pickle was actually a cucumber?  I remember. 
I remember this discovery being only mildly startling as compared with learning that when I was eating a steak, I was, in fact, eating a cow. Holy cow!

Here is a dictionary definition of the word pickle, "A pickle is a solution of brine or vinegar, often spiced, for preserving and flavoring edible products such as cucumbers."

Since so many of us, including me, grew up loving the flavor of pickled cucumbers (also known as dill pickles), I decided to try transferring that wonderfully familiar flavor to some of our own home grown and wild harvested edible products. 

Turns out that the key ingredients for dill pickles are vinegar, garlic and dill. Even though I usually purchase apple cider vinegar from a grocery store, I have recently discovered it is quite simple to make it with our own apples. We also have access to plenty of garlic because we have our own annual garlic harvest. So, this brings us to the topic of this post... dill. 

Dill is an annual, fragrant, flavorful, fast-growing herb. Dill seed is commonly used as a flavor in breads and pickling. Some people like to flavor their sauerkraut with dill seed. The dill leaves are used to flavor salads, dips, soups, meats and seafood. 



There are many varieties of dill. Let's look at several varieties and some of the seed packet information.

BOUQUET DILL - Use fresh or dried leaves for cooking. Use the unusually large seed heads for pickling.

DUKAT DILL - This variety produces much more foliage than most dills. And, you will see 10 inch seed heads at maturity!

GREENSLEEVES DILL - This variety is noted for being unusually leafy. The greens are a sweet dill flavor eaten raw or dried. 

45 days to maturity.

MAMMOTH DILL (also known as LONG ISLAND MAMMOTH) - A vigorous plant that matures quickly and is unusually loaded with seeds.


Choose the varieties of dill you want to grow.

Using four inch pots, fill the pots with potting soil. Sprinkle five or so seeds over the surface of each pot filled with soil. Cover over the seeds with about 1/8 inch of fine sand or soil. Place the pots in a tray or container.

Label each pot if you are growing more than one variety. it is too easy to get them mixed up. Also, if you are trading or sharing, they are already labelled for the new owner. I use craft sticks or things like old blinds cut in pieces:

Gently water each pot thoroughly. Cover the entire tray of pots with plastic and place on a seedling heat mat or your warmest location indoors.

It can take up to two weeks for seeds to germinate. Keep the pots well moistened in the meantime.

Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic cover permanently. No more heat mat necessary. Keep the little plants in the warmest, sunniest location you have indoors. Moisten regularly while the dill grows indoors for about a month.

Using a liquid fertilizer, lightly fertilize your dill plants and move them out of the house to a cold frame or greenhouse. After a week or two in this new location, it is time to plant outdoors. 

Dill plants like to be planted in your sunniest location. Choose a spot protected from wind, or be sure to stake the plants when they gain height. Soil should not be very fertile (unusual, I know) and soil should have good drainage. If you are growing dill primarily for the leafy parts, plant the seedlings in clumps, 4 or 5 starts close together. Each clump should be about 12 or so inches apart. If you are more interested in seeds, do not clump. Plant each individual start about 12 inches apart. If you would like a continuous supply of dill throughout the summer, plan on starting seeds several times... say early April, May and June. 
I have not had success sowing dill seeds directly into the ground outside. I start them all indoors.

Once planted outside, it takes up to 60 days to mature.
Most dills grow to a height of about 3 feet or taller. It is a good idea to pick both seeds and leaves on a dry day. Harvest when the flower heads are abundant and green. You can cut the entire plant at the base and hang it upside down in a brown paper bag. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bag. Another suggestion is to cut off the clusters and hang them upside down in a warm, dry location with a tray beneath to catch the seeds. If dehydrating leaves, dry slowly at about 100 degrees.

You can pick and store fresh picked leaves in the freezer.
If you are going to save dried seeds, use a covered glass jar. Store the jar in a cool, dark location. Do the same with dried leaves.

Without question, our favorite pickled vegetable is pickled beach asparagus.
Click on the address below to see the beach asparagus post. 
The post includes a review of pickling:

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