Dill Seeds and Heads

harvesthunt(6)June 30, 2007

Okay, just making sure I got all my facts straight on the dill seeds.

After flowering I get seeds. (That's the stage I'm at now.) They are currently green. At this stage, I could put them into pickles.

If I want to save just the dill seeds, I wait till they turn brown to collect them.

Could I collect the brown seeds and use them in pickles also? (Thinking ahead to later in the season.)

Also, many have suggested using the heads in pickles. The whole head. How big a head should I use? I have some that are only a couple inches across, and some that are close to six inches across and huge. Should I only use half the large ones in each jar? Should I put more than one of the smaller ones in a jar? Suggestions?

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

6 inch heads aren't huge.. How about a 10 inch head! Mine are the mammouth dill and every year I allow some of it to drop its seeds, and these sprout up everywhere. My dill plants get over 5 foot tall too. The flowers are tiny yellow. Look carefully and you will see tiny bees pollinating these. Some of these small bees are like little helicopters and stay in position while flapping their wings (like a very tiny humming bird). In any event, you can put seed heads in the jars at flower stage, swelled green seed stage, or in the tan color, dried stage. It all depends on how much flavor of dill you want. When I make half sour dills with garlic, I use both dill weed (leaves) as well as seed heads. A half gallon jar may hold several seed heads and several dill weed ferns. Half sour pickles are made with a salt brine, and left at room temperature for about 2-3 days. Then they get a small dose of white vinegar to stop the fermentation and then are placed in the fridge. You can collect the seeds or pluck off the seed heads and hold over a bowl to catch all the dried seeds. When flowers or green seeds, they hang onto the stems quite well. These half sour pickles are similar to the Claussen type that you find in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. With dill, you can't overdo the flavor, so don't be too concerned about the size or quantity. If you have a recipe, I am sure that it would be a very mild, almost bland of dill flavor, unless you use plenty. Another good one is to pickle fresh whole string beans in a dill and vinegar brine.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 10:40PM
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My daughter ADORES half-sours. Could you please share your recipe?

I can't imagine 10 inch heads. I still can't get over how big mine are this year since last year I was lucky to see 2 - 3 inch heads. I don't know what I did right this year, but I'm really hoping I can duplicate it over and over and over again!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 9:56AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

If the seeds are there from a previous years crop, and you apply a good quality, slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer, it should help the size of the dill heads. Last year, even though I had applied a lot of corn gluten in my asparagus patch, to prevent weeds from sprouting, the dill seeds survived and sprouted. Needless to say the dill was gigantic there too. I pulled up the whole plant, as I didn't want dill in my 'gus patch. If the dill seeds survive a cold winter, their motto is 'survival of the fittest' which means you see the biggest hardiest plants the next spring and summer only. Never start dill indoors in pots, it will not transplant well and tends to get a curvy stunted stalk.

As to the recipe, I don't really have one. I was taught by using my taste. It was the way my Polish grandmother did it. She used to make batches in gallon glass jars that originally contained commercail mayonaise. She half filled them with cold water, and added kosher salt, or a salt with no additives like calcium silicate or iodine. Stirred to dissolve it. She used to pour the salt into her arthritic hands and just dump it in. Stir, taste, and add a bit more, and taste again. I could tell after a while if too much salt was in there as it was bitter with salt. Too little salt and it tasted bland, so I would add more. If I went overboard, I would add water and taste again. It had that 'window' between bitter and bland, where your taste buds tend to interpret it as having a sweet flavor, almost to a mouth watering taste. Then, I added dill weed sprigs (about 10 or more) a few dill seed heads, both green swelled seeds, flowers, and tan color seeds, stems and all. A few cut up cloves of garlic. Trim off BOTH end tips of VERY FRESH FROM THE GARDEN pickling cukes that have ben washed well. These get packed into the jars and, you adjust the brine to cover the whole batch. She would leave these on a small table next to the kitchen hutch. That night at dinner, my grandfather would 'raid' the jar, she would catch him and yell in Polish. A day later he would grab a few more at luch time, and this would go on, until there were none left, or she would pull out the older ones and add fresh at the bottom, the put back the older ones (rotate the stock!). If they were not getting eaten fast enough, she would pour a little white vinegar (tablespoon to two) into the jar and store the rest in the fridge, after a week of them being left out in the open. The vinegar helped to prevent any mold scum on the surface, which will not harm them, as you can rinse that off easily.
Sometimes I would cheat if I didn't hve a lot of fresh dill and use a pickling mix from Ball or Mrs. Wages. Careful, if the first or second ingredient is sugar, its not a good mix to use. Usually the Polish or Kosher pickle mixes work well. This will also have the proper pure pickling salt, as opposed to regular (chemeicals added ) table salt, The natural dill oils in the mixes help to bring up an otherwise bland flavor if you don't have a lot of fresh dill. Using dried dill weed or seed, just simply will not work well, The dried are used in boiled type brines. These half sours are not boiled, cooked, or even canned. They must be refriegrated (after about 2-3 days) once made, and keep up to a year in the fridge, if you make a lot. After about 6 months, they tend to get a bit softer, but stil have a decent crunch, only a lot juicier..

Hope this helps!!

If you need a bit more accuracy (I never measure much of anything!!) Check out the HARVEST forum for more info.. As there are a few pople out there with teaspoons, scales and measuring cups. A cook like me uses my eyes to measure..

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 7:56PM
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My Italian Grandmother and Aunts used to cook the same way. I have most of the recipies about where they were (pinch of this, handful of that) and am pretty happy with them. Ironically, I refuse to measure out the ingredients and just write them down though. Figure if my kid really wants to follow in my footsteps, she can learn through trial and error like I did. (And besides, the errors can be yummy!)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 11:37AM
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