Monday, 27 April 2009

Dill Or No Dill?

Dill Or No Dill?Dill or no dill? This was a the question that came to me when moving to Bulgaria. It was no dill in the UK and dill when I got here. Dill is used extensively in Bulgarian dishes. There is no stopping me now once I discovered it and grow it both in the town and village location.

It will be now surprise that Dill comes originally from Eastern Europe (Bulgaria included.) There are also varieties in Mediterranean and in West Asia. Dill was even found in the tomb of the Ancient Egyptian Amenhotep II, late Neolithic lakeshore settlements in Switzerland and in Roman ruins in the UK.

The name dill probably came from Norse or Anglo-Saxon word 'dylle' that translates 'to soothe.' The ancient Greeks saw dill as a sign of prosperity and it was used in 8th banquets to cure hiccups. In the middle-ages saw dill as a erotic love potion and to keep evil witches away. American Puritans and Quakers gave dill seeds to their children to chew during long church meetings as it acted as a hunger-suppressant.

Dill Or No Dill?Dill has fernlike leaves, which are aromatic. These are used and are used to flavour a variety of foods including soups and pickles where the flowers of the dill are often used. Dill is best when used fresh due to it loosing its flavour very quickly. Modern freeze-dried dill leaves preserve their flavour well and will last up tot six months.

The dill seed is used as a spice, with a flavour somewhat similar to caraway, but also resembling that of fresh or dried dill weed. Dill oil can be extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant. The seeds were traditionally used to soothe the stomach after meals.

Growing dill Successfully requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; perfect in Bulgaria. Partial shade will reduce crop quality substantially. Dill likes rich, well-drained soil.

The seeds are gathered by cutting off the flower heads, as the seed is begins to ripen. The seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag and left. The seeds then separate from the stems easily for storage in an airtight container. It is very easy to manage.

Dill is great is grow in containers. You can use normal potting compost and keep the plants well watered. You can easily grow dill indoors, just sow the seeds October in small pots then transplant them to larger pots when the plants are about over 15 cm in height. A sunny windowsill is an ideal place for them to grow on although you might need a stake to support them eventually The crop will be ready for harvest about tow months after sowing.

This Dill Sauce recipe was tried and tested from the BBC and was found to be superb especially served with fish dishes.

Dill Sauce Recipe


15g/½oz sugar
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar
80g/3oz Dijon mustard
400ml/14½fl oz olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large tbsp fresh dill, chopped

Dill Or No Dill?Method

1. Whisk the sugar, vinegar and mustard together in a bowl.
2. Slowly whisk in the oil until smooth and thickened.
3. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the dill.

Recipe from

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Herbs Brighten Up Any Boring Turkey

Herbs Brighten Up Any Boring TurkeyTurkey normally bore me to death, especially the Christmas roast turkey which leads to me cook other meats on Christmas Day. A few weeks ago however, I was treated to roast turkey and I really enjoyed it. The secret I was told, was the addition of fresh herbs, not dried herbs. I go the recipe off the family and have now written it up for others to share.

This really does make the difference between enjoying or enduring a turkey dish.


  • 1 whole turkey, without neck and giblets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 100 ml yoghurt
  • 2 large lemons, juiced, lemon halves reserved
  • 1 tablespoon plain white flour
  • 1 oven roasting bag
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt

The oven should be preheated to oven to 35o F or 175 C. Mix the marjoram, rosemary, thyme, basil, dill, garlic and black pepper and salt and put to one side.

Lift the skin away from the turkey meat then brush the meat with olive oil mixed with the yoghurt. Pour some lemon juice over the meat and sprinkle the meat with half of the mixed herbs that was put on one side. Gently pat the skin onto the meat and shower the remaining herbs inside the turkey along with the squeezed lemons.

Put the flour into the turkey-roasting bag and give is a good shake. The turkey then should be placed into the bag and sealed. This then can be put into a deep roasting pan. Cut 6 half-inch slits in the top of the bag.

Before the turkey is roasted cut a few slits in the bag at the top then cook in the preheated oven. This should be cooking until the juices run clear. It is best to use a cooking thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. This will take away guessing.

Remove the turkey from the oven and cover it over with a sheet of foil allowing it to cool for 20 minutes before the process of slicing the turkey takes place.

You now have a turkey with taste and excitement returns again for the roast turkey dish and not just for Christmas.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Cannabis Without Controversy

Cannabis Without ControversyMention cannabis to anyone and it conjures up controversy and opinion in many circles. Cannabis is a herb and therefore classified as a useable and useful natural plant. I am not going to get involved with the politics of cannabis, but just try and cover some of the benefits of the herbs that some many people don’t really know about.

Cannabis is basically a flowering plant and originates from central Asia and surrounding regions. Cannabis is an annual plant with lance-like leaves and up to around 12 serrate leaflets. The top of the flowering plant produces fibre called hemp that is used for medicinal purposes. Cannabis is cultivated in many part so the world for recreational use. But with some countries ignoring their medical benefits outlaw this.

CannabisIn many areas cannabis grows wild and more of a problem weed and invasive. I know here in Bulgaria it grows wild and other temperate climates countries may also have them. In this environment growing wild they have been know to grow to a height of up to 6 metres, but normally only extending to 30 centimetres in the cooler climates.

Cannabis Without ControversyHemp is used for a wide variety of purposes, including clothing and nutritional products and even in bird feed in the seed mixes. Blended with other fibres such as flax, cotton or silk this is then used for furnishings. The tougher fibres of hemp are use for mulch, animal bedding and litter. There is oil produced from the fruits or seeds similar to linseed oil. This is sometimes used in the manufacture of oil-based paints and creams used as a moisturising agent. Also it is used for cooking and in plastic products.

Cannabis used to pain relief is well know, it used to be an ingredient that equated for half the medicine sold in the USA in the 19th Century and even Queen Victoria used it for the relief of period pains. In more recent times, there have been many of scientific tests that have been made on humans with on cannabis, most giving positive results. For example, cannabis can significantly ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Taking the herb, as a mouth spray makes moving and resting less painful, improves sleep quality and eases inflammation. It can also reduce pain and improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis.

At the end of the day nature has provided a herb that can do lots of positive things for the ill and suffering.
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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Watercress Is Not A Weed

Watercress Is Not A WeedWatercress may look like a weed to most people, but brings back those memories of a crunchy salads with a bit of a peppery bite to it confirming that it is definitely a salad herb. This was something I enjoyed immensely when I was younger, but alas it seems to have gone out of fashion as an outright salad nowadays. I used to gather watercress for the side of small streams where it grew wild, even in the centre of London. The health benefits from this water dwelling herb are far reaching like many other herbs; it's not just the taste and texture that appeals.

Watercress can be cultivated quite easily in your garden. It is well-suited to water that is slightly alkaline which is why it thrives in chalk streams in the south of England. Cress leaves can't be dried and has to be consumed within a short period. Storage life is only 1 - 2 days in refrigerated condition.

Watercress can grow to over one metre in height. The foliage of turns bitter when the plants begin producing flowers. An interesting piece of trivia is that watercress is one of the main ingredients in the mass produced V8 Vegetable Juice and used in many commercially made sandwiches.

This distinctive herb has major benefits when eaten as it contains iron, calcium and folic acid as well as vitamins A and C. It can act as a stimulant an antioxidant, a diuretic, an expectorant and a digestive aid. Treatment for suppressing cancer has also been shown to be positive and specifically helps defend against lung cancer.

Watercress Is Not A WeedStrangely enough many regions consider watercress as a weed as mention earlier and are totally unaware of its potential as a food source. What a shame that education fails in some regions where it grows.

So if you are in a region where watercress grows, give it a try, or try growing it in your garden. It doesn’t take much maintenance grow very quickly and also acts as a great water filter in ponds. As long as you crop and eat it regularly it will be a great addition to the dinner table with health benefits written all over it.

Top Image from Wikipedia
Bottom Image from

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Monday, 6 April 2009

Echinacea Beauty With Hidden Powers

I have heard lots about echinacea, but never really seen it grown in my or friends gardens. It is quite a spectacle, but more than that this herbaceous plant commonly called Coneflower has hidden secrets.

All the species derive from eastern and central North America. The plants have big, extravagant heads made up of composite flowers. They bloom from May to late September.

The name comes from the Greek "echino" that translates as "spiny," and almost certainly due to the characteristic spiny central disk. The plants grow up to 2 metres height and are drought-tolerant and perennial. The leaves are lance shaped in the main reaching 10 – 20 cm in length and 1.5 – 10 cm wide.

The North American Indians for general medicinal reasons used Echinacea. The plant was one of the basic herbs of eclectic medicine from around 1850 to the 20th century. It was used for snakebite, anthrax and for as a general pain reliever. During the 1930s echinacea was commonly used in Europe and the Americas as a herbal medicine.

Its modern day use now is for the treatment of the common cold. This was started by accident when a Swiss herbalist misunderstood that the Native American tribes used this for colds where in fact they didn't. However the Native American tribes used echinacea for coughs, sore throats, headaches, and many tribes used it as an analgesic. Not too far removed based on this fact.

The European Medicines Agency has now approved the use of echinacea in the form of expressed juice for the short-term prevention and treatment of the common cold.

Of course many grow this plant purely for it's beauty and outward colourful display and are grown as ornamental plants in many gardens. They tolerate a wide variety of conditions and keep their attractive foliage throughout the summer. Well worth keeping stock of in your border. They need full sun and fertile loam soil although any decent soil will do. Otherwise. Very little care is needed and they are quite sturdy so no staking is needed. You can also take cuttings of young shoots in spring and propagate quite easily or just simply grow from seeds that are widely available.

You will find many herbal medicines based in chemists and herbal health food shops with echinacea enhanced products, which is growing in popularity. It is not recommended you try and make your own potions for the herb as it has toxins that could be quite dangerous. Therefore it is best left to herbalist experts and bought over the counter.

Images from Wikipedia
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