- Dill seed refers to the fruit of the dill plant, while dill weed includes the leaves and stems.
- Dill seeds are about 1/5 inch long, shaped like tiny footballs, with an anise or caraway flavor.
- Dill seeds are often used as a spice, while dill weed is used more as an herb.
- Dill seeds go well in bread, eggs, cabbage, carrots, and corned beef dishes.
- Dill weed is commonly used in salads, sandwiches, slaws, soups, and with vegetables.
Dill is a unique and versatile herb that comes in two main forms – the seeds and the leafy parts. Both dill seed and dill weed impart delicious flavor, but they differ in terms of which parts of the plant they come from and how they are used in cooking. This article will take a deep dive into defining exactly what dill seed is and how it differs from dill weed.
Understanding the distinctions between these two forms of dill can help cooks select, store, and utilize them appropriately to bring out their best qualities. With dill being a popular ingredient around the world, from India to Scandinavia, knowing how to handle dill seeds versus dill weed can elevate everyday dishes. Read on to learn all about the characteristics, flavors, and culinary applications of dill seeds.
This comprehensive guide will outline what makes dill seeds distinct, how their flavor profiles compare to dill weed, and the best uses for them from spice blends to stand-alone seasoning. Equipped with a thorough understanding of this unique spice, anyone from novice home cooks to seasoned chefs can confidently incorporate dill seeds to enhance recipes across a diverse range of cuisines and dishes.
What Exactly Are Dill Seeds?
Dill seeds refer to the dried, ripe fruit of the dill plant, which is an herb in the celery family Apiaceae. The dill plant, scientifically known as Anethum graveolens, produces yellowish brown seeds that are often referred to as “dill weed seeds” or simply “dill seeds”. However, this is a misnomer since the seeds are actually the fruit of the dill plant, while the leafy parts like stems and leaves constitute the “dill weed”.
Dill seeds measure about 1/5 of an inch long and are slender and oval shaped, resembling tiny wooden footballs. They feature longitudinal ridges along their length. Dill seeds can range in color from yellowish brown to light brown. Once fully ripened on the plant, dill seed pods are collected and dried, allowing the seeds inside to be harvested.
Dill seeds deliver an aromatic flavor that is often described as being similar to caraway, anise, or fennel – though with its own unique nuances. The seeds have a pronounced tang and sharpness mellowed out by underlying grassy, citrusy tones. Dill seeds are highly concentrated in their flavor compounds. Even just a pinch can provide a powerful flavor punch.
How Do Dill Seeds Differ From Dill Weed?
While dill seeds come from the fruits of the dill plant, dill weed refers to the fresh or dried leaves and stems of the plant. Dill weed features delicate, feathery green leaves that grow in an open, branching pattern along the erect stalks. Dill weed has a more mild, cool, and grassy flavor compared to the seeds.
Dill weed is often used fresh or dried as an herb, while dill seeds function more as a spice. As an herb, dill weed provides aroma and color to dishes, while also subtly influencing their flavor. As a spice, dill seeds pack a concentrated dose of flavor that significantly seasons and enhances the overall taste of foods.
Both dill weed and seeds offer unique culinary value, which is why recipes will sometimes call for the seeds and leaves separately to provide layers of flavor. Dill weed imparts a lighter, brighter essence, while dill seeds offer pungency.
What Are Some Key Uses for Dill Seeds?
Thanks to their robust, warming flavor, dill seeds shine in hearty dishes and spice blends. Here are some of the most popular ways to use them:
- Breads: Dill seeds add flair to breads like rye, soda breads, and flatbreads. They provide a tangy contrast to the starchiness. Sprinkle seeds over dough or integrate them into the batter.
- Eggs: Add dill seeds to egg scrambles, frittatas, crustless quiches, and omelets. Their sharp bite cuts through the richness.
- Vegetables: Toss dill seeds into roasted vegetables like carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. They enhance the caramelized flavors.
- Pickles: For authentic dill pickles, dill seeds are a must. They lend that characteristic piquant flavor.
- Salmon: Rub dill seeds onto salmon fillets before broiling or baking. They complement the fish’s oils well.
- Salad dressings: Whisk dill seeds into vinaigrettes, ranch dressings, and creamy dips for extra flair.
- Potatoes: Potato salads, mashed potatoes, and hash get an upgrade with toasted dill seeds sprinkled on top.
- Corned beef: Traditional corned beef spice rubs rely on dill seeds for seasoning, along with peppercorns, mustard seed, and bay leaves.
- Soups: Add dill seeds into hearty bean, lentil, split pea, and vegetable soups for tang.
Beyond these savory applications, dill seeds also make an occasional appearance in sweeter baked goods, ice creams, and beverages for a surprise burst of flavor. Overall, their sharp potency allows dill seeds to stand up to and accentuate bold ingredients.
What Are the Best Practices for Cooking with Dill Seeds?
Dill seeds provide the most flavor when freshly dried, as their oils dissipate over time. Look for seeds that are uniformly light brown in color. Store dill seeds in an airtight container away from light to help maximize shelf life. Ground dill seeds lose potency faster than whole, so opt for grinding them as needed.
Toasting or lightly crushing dill seeds before using helps intensify their essential oils for full flavor. However, high heat can make dill seeds bitter, so use a lower setting when toasting and watch carefully. Chef Ferran Adria recommends dry-frying seeds for just 3 to 4 seconds.
When incorporating dill seeds into dishes, add them toward the end of cooking. This prevents their flavor from dissipating too much under heat. For vinaigrettes and dressings, add right before serving.
Use a light hand when seasoning with dill seeds, as a little goes a long way. Start with just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of seeds per pound of ingredients like meat or vegetables. Taste and add more seeds as desired. Combining dill seeds with lemon, mustard, garlic, or capers creates flavor synergy.
How Might Dill Seeds Benefit Health?
Alongside their culinary virtues, dill seeds may also impart certain wellness perks. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, dill seeds contain antioxidants that can help neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Research in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases found that dill seeds offer anti-inflammatory properties. The seeds may help inhibit certain biomarkers contributing to inflammation. An animal study in Pharmaceutical Biology indicated dill seeds may aid digestion and relieve intestinal spasms and discomfort.
However, more research is still needed to fully verify the potential medicinal effects of dill seeds in humans. Always consult your healthcare provider before using dill seeds or any spice medicinally.
Dill seeds have a lot more to offer than just being called “dill weed seeds.” These aromatic, ridged brown seeds provide a robust flavor perfect for spicing up hearty fare. Their sharp, tangy essence sets dill seeds apart from the more delicate dill weed. Mastering how to incorporate dill seeds can add another layer of flavor to your cooking repertoire. A little goes a long way, so start experimenting with these dynamic seeds to bring new life into egg dishes, roasted veggies, pickles, breads, and more.