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Dill-vill, pyar-vyar.

India, Jan. 3 -- Love can strike in the most unlikeliest places, as countless poems and songs have informed us through the centuries. My latest love struck-and struck with gale force smack in between my eyes-at the weekly vegetable market, or haat, in our neighbuorhood. Now don't go thinking I fell for the bhindiwala (my love affairs are never so routine). My object of desire, as it happens, is the dill-that wispy bunch of green freshness. For the past week and half I have been obsessed with the fern-like, sweet-smelling herb, as is usual when in the first flush of love. I've made dips, salad dressings and marinades, put it in daals, tried making it into chutneys, admittedly with varying results.

It was not love at first sight though. Beautiful as it is to look at, I'm not so blinded by love to claim it is the best looking green I've met. No, sir. There have been numerous times when I have passed it by without casting a second glance. But we weren't acquainted then. My interest was sparked when I kept reading references to the herb in recipes from widely different cuisines-English, East European, Mediterranean, Indian. It goes exceptionally well with fishes, salmon fillets in particular, as well as daals. However, Indian dill (Anetheum sowa) has a sharper taste than European dill (Anetheum graveolens). So when a friend served a fish with dill at his fabulous Christmas lunch, I knew it was time I met this particular green. And ever since, it had been one rollicking, aromatic, finger-licking affair.

And before you snigger at my lowly tastes-the day I went shopping celery was selling for over Rs100; and parsley couldn't even be sighted, while I got my bunch of suva/soa/suwa/shepu/sathakuppi sompa/sabasiege or simply dill, for the princely sum of Rs5 for 250g-let me tell you, the herb was found inside the pyramid of Amenhotep II. Yes, it was that precious to the Egyptians. As it should be to any sensible person. The slender stems and alternate, finely divided, softly delicate leaves pack in a nutritional power punch-calcium, manganese, iron, anti-oxidants, phyto-nutrients-and has a variety of medicinal uses. In fact, the name "dill" comes from an old Norse word meaning to sooth. The name is probably a reference to the herb's reputed abilities to relieve gas and aid digestion (it's the significant component in gripe water). According to the website, the herb contains many anti-oxidants, vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine etc, and dietary fibres which help to control blood cholesterol levels. Its high eugenol content helps control blood sugar levels. Dill oil has anti-spasmodic, carminative, digestive, disinfectant, galactagogue (helps breast milk secretion) and sedative properties. It is also a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. The adds that dill is considered one of the most valuable functional foods. "100 g of dill weed provides only 43 calories, but its phyto-nutrients profile is no less than any other high calorie food source; be it nuts, pulses, cereals, or meat group."

But when has love heeded (or needed) such noble reasons. I love dill because even dill doesn't require me to trek halfway across town to posh supermarkets in its pursuit. It is happy to find its way to the thelawala next to our gate, ready to be picked (really, us women are always better off being pursued than pursuing). And, because a handful of dill can infuse some zest into even the most bland daal made by very whimsical cook into something highly satisfying.

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Date:Jan 3, 2012
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