Dill is an annual herb that provides a tangy addition to Summer salads.  Dill weed, the leafy fern-like portion of the plant, has a sweet taste.  Sprinkle a little fresh dill on any of your Summer salads to add a little zesty flavor.  For a cool, summertime main course, try Salad Girl Organic Lemony Herb Dressing mixed with chilled, cheese tortellini and sprinkled with fresh dill and SarVecchio Parmesan (or another locally-made Parmesan-like cheese).  Add any veggies that you’d like to take advantage of your farmer market purchases or your CSA (community supported agriculture – see below for more info).

SarVecchio Parmesan cheese has a long and interesting history in Wisconsin.  A number of years ago, the Antigo Cheese Plant almost closed after 70 years of cheese-making, but people in Antigo, Wisconsin, combined their resources, bought the plant, and began making a 20-month aged, pasteurized Parmesan that has won numerous awards.  They called it Stravecchio.  A number of years later, the Sartori Family Company purchased the cheese plant and renamed the award winner SarVecchio Parmesan.  SarVecchio Parmesan is described as light, fruit and caramel notes with a slight roasted nut undertone in a traditional, savory and robust Parmesan composition.  It is rich and nutty but creamier and less salty than Parmigiano Reggiano.  It is available free of the growth hormone rBST.  If you can’t find the SarVecchio Parmesan, ask your cheese monger for a good, locally-made substitute.

Okay — back to the topic of dill.  If you have a copy of the Salad Days recipe book, you can use your fresh dill to make the “Summer ‘Sea-sar’ Salad with Creamy Lemony Dill Caesar Dressing, page 55.  If you still haven’t purchased a copy, check out the header at the top of the blog “Buy Salad Days Recipe Book”.

If you’d like to grow your own dill, it’s easy to grow in the ground or in container pots.  It is a member of the Parsley Family and prefers full sun.  The seeds are most popularly used to make dill pickles, and its leaves make a tasty addition to summer salads.  If you are planting in containers, put 8-20 seeds per pot.  Make sure that soil is at least 6 inches deep and that the container has drainage holes.  If you are planting in the ground, space the seeds 12-15” apart in moderately rich, loose, well-drained soil.  Plant in the early spring, and expect seeds to germinate in 7-10 days.  Dill may be grown indoors most successfully with the use of high output fluorescent plant lights.  In midsummer, cut the ripening heads to harvest the seeds.  Only harvest the amount of dill leaves you need for the recipe as they are quite perishable and won’t last long refrigerated.

To store for a short time, wrap the dill in damp paper towel, and refrigerate 1-2 days.  For longer storage, fresh dill is better frozen versus dried.  To freeze, finely chop the dill and place in an airtight, freezer-safe container or bag.

Consult www.herbgardening.com for more information on growing your own herbs.  If you’d like more information about CSA’s, go to http://www.localharvest.org and click on the “CSA” heading.  For CSA’s in Minnesota, you may also check out www3.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown.

Article by Sarah Baron Sullivan

Photograph by Sarah Baron Sullivan taken at Whole Foods Market in St. Paul, MN