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Dill - the only Baltic spice

If there is one smell that can instantly transport you to the Baltics, its dill. The fresh herb is absolutely everywhere, and not just in the places you would expect (pickles, on salmon, as a garnish), but on pizza, sushi, soups and sandwiches.
It's not just the location of the herb; it's also the copious amount present in, almost every Baltic dish.
There is however, a very good reason for this. Dill (Anethum graveolens) with origins in Eastern Europe has been used in medicine, as an herb and in many other capacities for thousands of years.

Dill, as a simple curative herb can help with so many different ailments, that its no wonder it's added to everything edible.
Among the highlights, dill can be used to:
- Cure insomnia
- Boost the nervous system and battle colds
- Lower blood pressure
- Fight gas

In ancient Rome, gladiators were given food coated in dill for strength and agility. This may be an explanation for why Lithuanians are so good at basketball.
Dill has touched many parts of the globe and was even found in the Egyptian tomb of Amenhotep II.

In the 8th century, Charlemagne used it at banquets to relieve hiccups and in the middle ages it was used as a love potion and to keep witches away
Not just an aromatic herb, Charlemagne found an important use for it as well, getting rid of hiccups. This Baltic herb, in no way near as pungent as the "Baltic Breath mint" (garlic), was used as a love potion in medieval times.

Dill was also famously used in magicians spells. As Nicholas Culpeper, the 16th century botanists said: "Mercury has the dominion of this plant, and therefore to be sure it strengthens the brain.... It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine, and but smelled unto being tied in a cloth."
One can use all parts of the dill plant, but the seeds hold the most minerals and were even used to treat cholera.

"The seed is of more use than the leaves, and more effectual to digest raw and vicious humors, and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind, and the pains proceeding therefrom," said Culpeper.
Dill has been used by mothers for ages to calm down colicky babies. Even the word dill comes from an ancient word meaning "to soothe or lull." The herb like other green herbs, holds an intense amount of nutritious value.

The summer in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia brings with it loads of fresh dill, which can be frozen for up to a year and still maintain its flavor. As meals are usually lighter in the summertime, salads are popular, and none more popular than the cucumber, tomato, sour cream and dill salad.
There is nothing like a fresh dill pickle, and luckily one of the Baltics many loves is home pickled pickles. In fact, even in the city, many families will have a big jar or pickles brewing in the kitchen.

The recipes vary by family secret of course, but the easiest way to a crunchy dill pickle is simple.
Take 1 quart vinegar
1 1/2 - 2 quarts water
3/4 cup salt
1-2 heads of dill per quart
1 clove garlic

Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Pour boiling hot vinegar solution over cucumbers, cover and set in a cool place and wait a few days for optimal crunch.
Now that you know all there is to know about the Baltic herb, you can understand why it's in so many dishes. And now that you know the benefits, you're sure to have a dill-icious summer!