Dill weed is a delightful herb — great for fish, deviled eggs, pickling, and a host of other delectables. But washing dill weed (or any herb with fragile fronds) and preparing it for drying can be tricky because it is so delicate and … feathery. It is easily bruised and needs handled with care. I am going to show you how I get my dill weed ready for drying (with or without a dehydrator) in such a way that we don’t damage the fragile fronds any more than necessary. Why? Because the less you handle herbs prior to putting them into a recipe, the better they hold their flavor. In fact, you may already know that it is best NOT to crush, grate, or powder until just before use. As a result, washing dill weed and other feathery, fragile fronds can be challenging. That said, make sure you save some to use fresh this week … fresh dill is even better! (On Friday, fry your fish with feathery, fresh, fragile fronds. Say that 10 times real fast.)
Oh, and I just looked it up. I am not using the word “frond” according to the strictest biological definition, but if you widen the definition a bit … well, they look like fronds to me, so fronds it is.
Here is what you need for washing dill weed:
- Large flat surface such as a cookie sheet or cutting board
- A double sided sink or two large dishpans or tubs (even clean buckets will work)
- White vinegar
- A salad spinner (if you do not have one yet, there are alternate instructions below)
- If hang drying, rubber bands or twisty ties and paper bags
Here is how you do it:
When you go out to harvest, grab the dill a small handful at a time and use the scissors to cut the fronds a few inches above the ground (they will grow back if you do not cut too far). Lay the bundle on a flat surface. With each new bundle, lay it in the same direction on or next to what you have already cut such that the ends match up (reasonably – it won’t be perfect). Don’t wash them under a garden hose, but if you see any pests or dead fronds, carefully remove them without letting them get all tangled up. Tangling is BAD. Then carry them inside and transfer them over to the counter.
Fill both sides of the sink (or tubs or buckets) with water. Add an ounce or two of white vinegar to just one side of the sink (leave the other one as plain water for rinsing). Vinegar kills any insects and larvae and works as a cleansing agent to remove dirt. It will NOT change the flavor of your dill weed.
Grab a small bundle by the ends and swish it around several times in the vinegar water. Lift it out to inspect it until you are confident it is clean.
Shake the bunch GENTLY to let the excess vinegar water drip off and move it to the other side of the sink and swish it in the plain water to rinse. Lift and inspect again. Shake gently.
If you have a salad spinner, GREAT … it makes this job much easier. (If not, alternate instructions are below.) Place the bunch in the bottom of the spinner circularly, like a wreath.
Grab a second bunch, wash, shake, inspect, rinse, shake, inspect again, and lay it in the salad spinner with the first bunch such that the spinner is balanced. Yes, it will look just like a wreath.
Spin out the excess water for about 45-60 seconds.
Alternate Instructions: If you don’t have a salad spinner, first … get one. There are a lot of different models, but this is the one I use and it is very well made. It will be your BFF from the very first time you use it and you will wonder how you ever managed without one. I run virtually everything through my salad spinner and it much faster than the alternative. However, in the meantime … spread clean towels on a table and lay the dill fronds out straight and flat (again, avoiding tangling as best you can) on the towels in a thin layer. Place a fan next to them on the low setting. Make sure the fan is not so close that it disturbs the fronds. Every hour or so, gently turn the fronds over to allow them to dry more evenly. This can take several hours (which is why I recommend a salad spinner) depending on the humidity in your house. When they are no longer wet (damp is fine, but wet is not), you are ready for the next step.
Air Drying Your Dill Weed
If you are air drying your dill, once again grab a small bunch (now you see why we are trying to the keep the ends together & straight, right?) and use either a rubber band, twisty ties, or string to tie them off in bundles. Cut holes in the bottoms of some paper bags (one for each bunch) and slip the bound end into a bag and through the hole such that the bag becomes a cover (like what the dry cleaners do with clean clothes). The paper bag prevents dust from settling on the fronds and still lets air flow through. Hang the bunch up in a cool dark area with good air flow.
Dehydrating Your Dill Weed
I love my dehydrator. I just do not have the space or time to manage air or sun drying everything. So like the salad spinner, consider getting one. Mine is an Excalibur (like this one) and I love it! My biggest mistake was getting the model that did not have a timer built in. Make sure you get one that does (like this one). They are a little more expensive, but worth it. Anyway, the next step is to spread the dill weed as evenly and thinly as you can and pop them in your dehydrator on the lowest possible setting. Most herbs will lose some flavor if you try to dehydrate them too fast or too hot. Lower the temp and lengthen the time for best results.
Whether air dried or dehydrated, when the fronds start to get crunchy, they are ready to be packaged, preferably in an air tight (sealed) mason jar using a vac sealer. I have one like this, but any vac sealer with a port and jar attachment will do just fine. With mine, I sometimes have to press down on the lid in order for the suction to properly divert to the hose attachment. I like jars because the herbs cannot be “crushed” the way zip lock bags do when you press the air out of them. Remember, don’t crush until you cook.
If you are wondering whether dill is hard to grow, the answer is NO. There is a reason it is called dill WEED. Also, dill SEED makes a great seasoning, too — albeit a tad stronger than dill weed — so letting your dill go to seed is fine. There are plenty of uses for it, including saving some for next year’s dill weed crop. Same is true of mustard. We grew mustard this year just for the seed, so soon you will find out how to make your own fresh mustard from seed you grew (and if you like the greens, eat them … or give them to a bunny). If you don’t have mustard on your list for next spring … think about that. Who doesn’t love mustard? Fresh, homemade … with no pesticides & preservatives. Come on. You know want to.
One of my readers (Hi, Tammy!) asked me about cilantro today. I have never grown that before, but I plan to next year. Do you have any interesting weeds you like to grow? What is in your herb garden? Are you planning to venture next year and grow something you never tried? Oh, do tell!