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More information on dill

Plus, where to buy cuke seeds and Ted shares some of your emails


So what’s on this agenda? An old catch-no-cold remedy — lots on dill — where to buy pickling cucumber seeds — emails and who knows what else? I’m not at the end ’til I get there.

Every gardener worth their dill pickle juice

… has grown dill and made dills at one time or another. Now you may be wondering what more can I, Ted, possibly tell my Grainews readers about dill that you don’t already know? My answer: Read on and decide for yourself.

Have you heard of dill pickle juice as a seasonal preventive against sniffles, colds and even flu-like symptoms? As a kid I recall Mother taking a swig of the brine as part of her routine after all the dills had been eaten. I often wondered why. “Us kids” would shy away from anything that tasted as sour as pickle juice, but the reason was eventually revealed.

An old travelling country doctor told many of his patients that he hadn’t had a cold or even the flu in over 30 years of practice because he daily consumed two tablespoons of cold dill pickle juice first thing each morning. Take it for what it’s worth. Call it an old wives’ tale, something for guys to ponder over at the coffee shop, just plain ol’ blarney, flattery, or smooth talking. The doc also indicated dill pickle juice was taken for digestive disturbances and even to treat a hangover from consuming too much rich food, alcohol or both. Remember — I tell you this as information and not as a prescription. There are no doctor credentials attached to my name but my jar is full of folk tales and wisdom.

Dill weed as some call it

… is actually a herb extensively used in making dill pickles. The most common are Mammoth dill (Anethum graveolens “Mammoth”) and Bouquet dill, a dwarf, compact type of the former. Is dill used for anything else? You can bet your “penny a pound” at the farmers’ market but are certain to pay a whole lot more.

When in season fresh minced dill fern imparts a savoury taste to many dishes such as cold potato salad, perogy filling, beet soup and sauerkraut. The list goes on and on. Its benefits are endless, including a key to sustaining health. Dill brings great relief to anyone experiencing a buildup of abdominal gas and provides sustaining energy. It’s little known that dill was often placed at festivity and banquet tables so those who overindulged could benefit from its gas-relieving properties. Perhaps it’s a practice that’s well worth reinstating.

That feathery fern-like stuff and the seed head umbels are full of compounds such as essential oils with flavonoids and numerous trace minerals that keep us on the path to well-being. These same oils lubricate and add stimulus to the intestines and encourage easy bowel movements. Often gas buildup and constipation are eased to the point of less reliance on laxatives.

Are you among the many folks who long for better sleep? Those flavonoids and multiple vitamin B complex found in dill’s essential oils have a calming effect that stimulates hormones to provide a sedative effect and sounder sleep. Calcium found in dill is another sleep enhancer, but also safeguards bone health and bone mineral density. There are numerous folk remedies to curb a bout of hiccups and not surprisingly chomping on a few dill seeds or sipping on a cup of dill tea is among them.

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Some of the latest research information suggests that dill’s essential oils may play a role in prevention of and treating leukemia and other cancers. Dill is referred to as a chemo-protective food. The same term has also been applied to parsley. Centuries ago dill seeds were burned and the powdered residue was placed on battle wounds, sores and cuts to promote healing. Cooking with dill in recipes and eaten fresh in salads has shown to ease symptoms of arthritis and gout.

Exceptionally large Dukat dill seed heads grow atop highly decorative plants with lots of feathery foliage. Dill is one of the best herbs in the whole wide world to attract beneficial pollinating insects. Ted tells about health-promoting essential oils and other important nutrients found in dill.

Exceptionally large Dukat dill seed heads grow atop highly decorative plants with lots of feathery foliage. Dill is one of the best herbs in the whole wide world to attract beneficial pollinating insects. Ted tells about health-promoting essential oils and other important nutrients found in dill.
photo: Mark Macdonald, West Coast Seeds

Countertop dills

If this was late summer or early autumn I might say, “There’s no time to dilly-dally. It’s the last call to make ’em.” Cucumber season is months down the road but do buy your cuke seeds soon as many varieties sell out early. They’re not real dills if there’s no dill in the jar. The fresh fronds really do release a breath of freshness.

This is a traditional, delicious and almost foolproof method. Use a wide-mouth four-litre glass jar (or imperial gallon size) sterilized in boiling water. Fill the cooled jar with fresh cucumbers that are well scrubbed clean. Place largest cukes in the bottom and smallest at the top. For every 2-1/2 pounds of cukes bring the following ingredients to a boil:

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt

10 cups water

Disperse garlic cloves, dill seed and ferny fresh-picked dill fronds (as much as you dare) among cucumbers throughout each jar, then pour in prepared hot brine. Cover with several layers of clean cheesecloth or linen and fasten with a strong elastic band. After two days, place dills in the fridge. Within a week to 10 days the cukes will have transformed into dill pickles but many folks start nibbling long before that. Happy dilling.

Excelsior cuke is an outstanding pickling variety with full-season production. Plants are open and vigorous with good resistance to scab, powdery mildew and viruses. Certified organic seed is available from West Coast Seeds at Delta, B.C.

Excelsior cuke is an outstanding pickling variety with full-season production. Plants are open and vigorous with good resistance to scab, powdery mildew and viruses. Certified organic seed is available from West Coast Seeds at Delta, B.C.
photo: Mark Macdonald, West Coast Seeds

Cuke seeds for making dills

Ever heard of a variety that begs to be pickled? “Corentine” is a burpless, seedless and crunchy French cuke that looks as much at home in the pickle jar as it does in a salad. Can you think of a better name than “Homemade Pickles” for small-size sweet baby pickles? Then, at 13 cm (five inches) they become dill pickle shaped, a perfect size for Countertop Dills. “Excelsior” is another outstanding pickling variety. All three cukes named are available from West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., V4K 3N2; phone 1-888-804-8820; www.westcoastseeds.com.

There’s an impressive list of pickling cuke types including Calypso, Cool Breeze, Jackson Classic, Matilde, National Pickling, Pioneer and Sassy to be had from Early’s Garden Centre, Saskatoon, Sask., S7J 0S5; phone 1-800-667-1159 or shop online at www.earlysgarden.com. “Corentine” mentioned earlier and a productive dark-green variety called “Eureka” pickling cucumber are both available at W.H. Perron-Dominion Seed House, Georgetown, Ont., L7G 5L6; phone 1-800-784-3037; www.dominion-seed-house.com.

Now on to a trio of emails

First — this one received in mid-December 2013:

Hi Ted, Enjoy your columns very much. However, I must take issue with the cleaning of cast iron cookware. To wash a seasoned pan or pot with soap is like desecrating a shrine!!! After a good cleaning with salt (or sand if you’re camping), nothing more is needed except a rub with paper towel.

Keep up the good work Ted.

Dwayne Thompson

Victoria, B.C.

Ted says: Thanks Dwayne. Your tip is great for both the outdoors and the home kitchen. Campers: If you don’t already have cast iron cookware; get one or more pieces before camping season begins.

Next email is from Beatrice who wrote just before Christmas:

Hi, I’m having a problem with cats deciding to use my garage as a bathroom. Do you have any tips on anything I could spray or spread around to deter them? I keep the small door open so my dog can come in to sleep in her spot so it’s hard to keep the cats out. Thanks. My name is Beatrice Rosin and I live by Churchbridge, Sask.

Ted says: You have to catch a cat in the act that you want to correct. Give it a swat with a rolled newspaper or squirt away from the cat’s face with water containing a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. At the same time speak to the cat and say NO — in a high-pitched voice. Remove the source of temptation until better habits are formed. If stray cats are visiting, it’s more of a challenge to apply aforesaid. What do Grainews readers have to say? If you have something that works to discourage cats from where you don’t want them, let’s hear about it.

Hello to Edna at Pincher Creek. She writes:

Restless legs and cramping of muscles in legs are two very different ailments. I have suffered with both but more so with restless legs. I thought for many years RL was caused by too much walking on concrete floors and fatigue. I was prescribed medication which helped but not always.

Then I discovered polyester sheets. I also discovered that I was fine after a warm bath and polyester sheets. But when I did not have a hot bath and went to bed — with the polyester sheets — I still had restless legs. I have since learned that if the skin feels cold on my legs, I will not be sleeping because of RL until they warm up. I now wrap my legs in a small polyester blanket — (baby’s blanket) which will quickly warm my legs. I do this even if I have a warm bath — and I wear socks to bed!! Vigorous rubbing of my legs when they are cold — usually done by my husband — helps also. I take no medication now and I can sleep reasonably well most nights.

Another thought: Possibly restless legs is due to varicose veins and I have VV also which results in poor circulation. I would not like to sleep with corks and old stinky shoes under the bed. Not even perfumed soap bars. Unbelievable! Try a warm pillow under both legs for starters and poly sheets!!! Hope this helps the fellow sufferers.

Edna Mackenzie

Pincher Creek, Alberta

Note from Ted: Edna would like the recipe for controlling moss on lawns from an earlier column. I’ll repeat it next Grainews issue.

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. Here’s an Irish proverb that’s familiar to every farmer and haymaker. There’s no need to fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down. Proverbs may be said to be the abridged versions of wisdom. My email address is [email protected]

About the author

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Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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