It has been a month since we set up the AeroGarden and started our journey into space gardening. It came with three herbs – basil, dill and parsley. The basil was the first to burst into life and has been the fastest growing. I trimmed the top of one of the young plants at the end of July, and it’s probably ready for another trim now. The parsley was the slowest to germinate and isn’t remotely close to catching up, but it is growing well now.

In the middle is the dill (Anethum graveolens). I have some dill plants growing outside in the garden. It took two sowings to get any to establish, and they’re bolting in the heat and dryness. I have some seedlings in modules on the bedroom windowsill that are doing better, but they’re not growing anywhere near as fast as the AeroGarden plants.

Floppy dill

The AeroGarden dill is tall – I’ve just extended the light to its tallest setting – and it’s floppy. On Sunday morning when I checked on the Aerogarden, the dill had flopped down in that diva-like way that some plants use to say they’re running out of water. “I’m dying!” they scream, and flop dramatically.

I had topped up the water level on Wednesday, but by Sunday morning it had dropped to half again. The top-heaviness of the dill had pulled its roots partway out of the water. I topped up the water again, propped up the dill, and decided it was time for our first dill harvest.

I found an intriguing array of dill recipes online:

Hopefully, the dill seedlings on the windowsill will turn into a dill field in the autumn, and we can try them all! For dinner last night we did a modified version of the salmon en papillote as our first dill harvest was little more than a sprinkle.

Interestingly, the Russian word for dill – укроп* – is derived from кропить, which means ‘to sprinkle’. Russian cuisine is heavily reliant on dill, possibly because it’s a cold-tolerant herb that grows well in their climate. They sprinkle it on everything, even non-Russian dishes, which drives tourists up the wall.

(It’s also interesting to note that because укроп (dill) begins with the same three letters as Украина (Ukraine), Russian soldiers started calling referring to the Ukrainian army as the ‘dill army’. The Ukrainians refused to see it as as an insult and adopted an image of dill as their logo.)

In her new book – A Modern Herbal+ – Alys Fowler says “Supposedly Russian cosmonauts on spaceflights with confined quarters and a closed air supply asked for dill.” That’s a reference to dill’s stomach-calming properties, and it’s backed up by astronaut Scott Kelly. In his book, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery+, Kelly talks about the food he ate during his training in Russia. He asked one of his cosmonaut colleagues (Gennady Padalka) why everything comes covered in dill. Gennady replied: “It’s from when the Russian diet consisted mostly of potatoes, cabbage, and vodka. Dill gets rid of farts.”

Bonus reading:

It is probably not a coincidence, therefore, that the Russians have tried growing dill in space. The Russian Salyut 6 space station was launched in September 1977 and remained aloft until July 1982. Cosmonaut Valery Ryumin was quite the space gardener, turning empty film cassettes, equipment casings, and food containers into impromptu plant pots. He turned the space station into a jungle of onions, peas, radishes, lettuce, wheat, garlic, cucumbers, parsley, and dill. He managed to grow plants on from seedlings sent from Earth, but the early experiments on Salyut 6 failed to grow plants from seed. Later on, Ryumin worked out that the space station atmosphere was to blame. Seeds were then able to germinate and grow in space greenhouses designed with separate atmospheres and ethylene filters.

Soviet stamp from 1981, depicting the Salyut 6 space station

*I have started learning Russian via Duolingo. I haven’t learned how to say “Can I have that without the dill, please?” yet, but I can tell people I have left my luggage on the subway.

+I have included links to these books for sale on Hive. If you choose to click through and make a purchase, you’ll be helping your local bookstore, and I may also receive a small commission for referring you.