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Be smart when choosing Dill, Cilantro and Chervil

Delightfully Piqant Dill by Gladys J. Richter in The American Gardener. ©ANS

There’s a very useful article in the July/August issue of The American Gardener (the members’ magazine of the American Horticultural Society) about Dill. OK, Dill is not the most exciting herb on the planet but the key point is that, in her piece, Gladys J. Richter emphasizes that all Dill is not the same.

Many gardeners and cooks fail to realize that like, so many other edibles, annual herbs like Dill come in a range of different varieties – with different qualities and different uses.

The main point is that some varieties of annual herbs are specially developed to provide leaves, and continue to make more foliage without running up to seed, while others are specially developed to provide as much seed as possible as quickly as possible. Some are also more attractive than others, and so better suited to growing with flowers.

In Dill the varieties ‘Diana’, ‘Dukat’, ‘Fernleaf’, ‘Herkules’ and ‘Tetra’ are best for leaves, ‘Bouquet’ and ‘Mammoth’ are good for seeds, while ‘Vierling’, with its gray-blue leaves is the most attractive and looks best with flowers.

There are similar distinctions in Chervil while Cilantro, grown for its leaves, and Coriander, grown for its seeds, actually different forms of the same plant.

So you can see, it really does pay to be smart about choosing the right varieties according to the use you have in mind. You may not find seed of them all in your local store, but they easy to find in mail order catalogs.

North American gardeners will find a good range of these annual herbs at The Cook’s Garden and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

British gardeners and cooks will find a good range of these herbs at Chiltern Seeds and Suffolk Herbs.

Join the American Horticultural Society

And here’s a field of Dill being grown for seed that I spotted in Surrey, south of London, eariler this summer.

UPDATE (a few days later): The current issue of Which? Gardening, published by Britain's Consumers' Association (the equivalent of the US Consumer Reports) includes a resport on their trial of nine different varieties of Cilantro/Coriander. One variety, 'Calypso', stood out for producing four or even five cuts of leaves and not bolting.