Dill is a popular herb known for its unique flavor profile—citrusy with a few grassy undertones.
Because of its delectable flavor, it is often added to many recipes to give them a fresh twist, including pickles.
That said, it’s important to know when to harvest dill for pickling to get the right flavor you’re after.
When to harvest dill for pickling? There really is no set time to harvest dill specifically for pickling. However, the majority prefer harvesting at around 10 weeks after planting. Roughly speaking, it will be ready for harvest about two weeks after flowering or when it enters what’s called the green seed stage.
How Do You Know When Your Dill Is Ready To Harvest?
Dill comes in many varieties, but the most commonly used for pickling is the garden dill.
The reason? It becomes ready for harvest around the same time that cucumbers are ripe for pickling.
To know if yours are, here are some tried-and-tested tricks you can do:
1. Check the seeds.
When dill is young, its seeds are usually round and hard. Try tasting and comparing these seeds with ones when your dill plant flowers.
Notice the difference in how they taste, with the mature ones being more delicious.
2. Look at the size of the plant.
Another technique is to check the size of the plant. If they are about three to eight inches tall and two to three feet wide, they are ready for harvest.
Around this time is when dill tastes the best, adding that unique and tangy flavor to your pickles.
3. Timing is everything.
Given the right growing conditions, dill plants will take about seven weeks to grow enough leaves for picking.
The seeds will take longer to grow and harvest, sometimes as long as 12 to 13 weeks.
While you will need to wait long if you’re after the flowers and seeds, dill leaves are ready for picking as early as seven weeks.
4. Determine what part you want to harvest.
As mentioned, every part of a dill plant has its own function.
If you are after dill oil, you will need to wait for the seeds to grow and mature to extract the oil from them.
Some grow dill for their flowers, which has many uses over just being edible. To get the seeds, dry the flower until you can collect the seeds.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Dill?
When growing any plant meant for harvesting, it’s important to know when is the right time for picking.
Otherwise, you risk having it wither and die and all your efforts wasted.
If you leave your dill plant to grow without pruning, the leaves will soon dry out, and the flowers will wither.
The good thing is that the seeds will remain alive and continue to mature.
If allowed to go to seed, your dill plants will produce new growth year after year.
To discourage seeding, it is important to cut away leaves here and there regularly to remove buds.
How To Harvest Dill
Ready to start harvesting dill? As with any plant, it pays to know how to do it the right way.
To help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow:
Step 1: Check if they are ready for harvest.
Dill takes approximately six to eight weeks or two months to produce enough leaves ready for picking.
Again, it is important that you start harvesting before they flower to get the best flavor from your dill leaves.
Moreover, you will want to do it in the morning when it is still humid, ensuring your freshly harvested dill leaves are extra flavorful.
Step 2: Use a pair of scissors.
One clear sign your dill leaves are ready to harvest is when the plant already has four to five branches.
Using your handy pair of garden scissors, carefully cut the outer leaves. Some prefer snapping off the stem, but this could stress the plant.
Only take what you need, not all of it. Regular pruning will encourage the plant to grow more leaves, so you will have a constant supply of fresh dill for months.
Step 3: Know how much dill you want to harvest.
If you need dill for different purposes, it might be a better idea to take the whole stem from the base.
For this, cut the stem off about five to 10 centimeters above the soil.
On the other hand, if you only need it to complete a dish, you can just snip off a few leaves from the top part.
Step 4: Store it properly after picking.
Did you accidentally cut off more than you need? If so, it is important to refrigerate it to maintain its stability.
Put it in a cup or bowl of water to keep it from drying out and wilting quickly.
Clearly, you cannot store it that way for however long you want.
Stored this way, you must use dill leaves within 48 to 72 hours. For the best flavor, use the leaves and stems of your dill.
Step 5: Determine how long you want to store your dill.
What if you want to store them for longer than two to three days?
How long dill leaves last in storage depends on how you store them. If you need dill to last for months, you will need to dry them.
Dried dill weed isn’t as flavorful as fresh dill, but it has a strong aroma that will elevate your dishes.
You can dry the leaves either by using a baker’s rack or a dehydrator sheet.
For drying in a baker’s rack, start by clipping off the leaflets and laying them out evenly in a single layer.
Leave them in a warm and dry area, turning them over every day to expose the leaves to the warm air.
The goal is to dry out the dill leaves naturally, so ample airflow is necessary.
This drying process can take several days, but if you have a dehydrator, you will only have to wait for a couple of hours.
Set it to run for four to six hours at 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
After drying, put them inside a jar or container with a cover to seal them.
Step 6: Harvest dill seeds for pickling.
You can use dill seeds as is or by crushing them. Others prefer extracting the oil to be used for different purposes.
Compared to dried dill weeds, dill seeds have a stronger flavor. That’s why they are often used for pickling.
To collect the seeds, cut the flowers and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated room.
Pick a spot away from direct sunlight so that the flowers don’t dry out before you want them to.
After a couple of days, you’d be able to collect dill seeds. They can last for up to a year by keeping them dry.
Should You Wash Dill After Harvesting?
Like any herb, it’s important that you wash dill weed after harvesting to get rid of insects and dirt.
Doing this may also help prolong the shelf life of your freshly harvested dill leaves.
So, how do you do it the right way?
First, make sure you don’t cut the leaflets away from the stem so that it stays in shape.
Then, grab a container, fill it with cold water, and dip the entire stem and leaves in it.
Using a colander, drain the water and put the washed dill weed on a paper towel or a piece of clean, dry cloth.
Allow it to air dry completely for a couple of hours.
After that, you can remove the leaflets and start laying them out on your dehydrator sheet or baker’s tray.
If you don’t plan on drying them, you can go ahead and add them to your dish.
Can You Eat Dill Immediately After Harvesting?
While you can eat fresh dill leaves, it’s imperative that you wash them thoroughly prior to doing so.
Washing dill removes dust and dirt particles as well as any small insect that could be hiding between the leaves.
In fact, you will want to do the same with any other herb, regardless of whether you harvested it from your own garden or bought it from the store.
Once you’re sure it is clean, you can then add it to your dishes, either as a garnish or mixed with cream cheese, sour cream, and spreads.
Its lemony and buttery flavor also makes it a great addition to salads, soups, and pasta, giving them a touch of brightness.
Whether you are a total newbie to herb gardening or not, you will find that growing dill is a worthy endeavor.
Not only is it easy to grow but also has plenty of uses in the kitchen. You can eat it raw or dry it for future use.
The best part is that the leaves, flowers, and seeds are all edible.
That said, you will want to use dill seeds instead of leaves when pickling, as the seeds boast a much stronger flavor.
More than flavor, dill is also an excellent source of antioxidants as well as vitamin A, magnesium, and vitamin C.