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When, and How, did you first discover the beauty of Celery Seed? And did it later lead to the seed of Dill?

For me, it was at 3 PM on a Saturday at one of the better BBQ restaurants in Memphis.

The timing of 3 PM was perfect, because the crowd had thinned, and I was somnolently examining the shards of our meal... and these tiny round things were visible in the sides of baked beans, tater salad, and slaw.

Then a chef-like dude in an apron walks out, obviously tired from the lunch slam. I offered a chair and he sat. Turned out we had common friends and places. When the talk moved to the tiny seeds in the three sides, he simply said "It's celery. Get yourself a pestle and mortar to bruise the seeds and play with them."

The Memphis BBQ wars are so heated that it is not appropriate to give the name of the restaurant. But Dang the celery seed tip was killer.

And later there was the Indian home cook who turned me on to the again bruised seeds of Dill. Larger, but still bruisable in the same mortar and pestle.

So, if you're one the celery and dill lovers, let's share our stories and our uses.

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  1. I think I have overlooked celery seeds and you are inspiring me to give them a try.

    For celery flavor, we do have two lovage plants in our herb garden that are growing well and are looking forward to using them when they're bigger.

    1. My dad always puts it in tuna salad. It's great. I use it there and in places where celery flavor would be good but I don't necessarily want the texture.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChristinaMason

        p.s. I just added some to my tomato-cucumber salad. num.

      2. Thank you for the great tip! I have wondered if there was something more to these seeds other than just measuring a tsp or whatever and mixing it in. There never seemed to be enough punch. I though I needed to warm them perhaps. I love to cook with dill and celery seed, this makes great sense and I'll put your advice into practice.

        1. It's the not-so-secret ingredient in my cole slaw. Just does not taste the same without it.

          3 Replies
            1. re: ChristinaMason

              +2 on the slaw...love it or if I don't have the seeds, celery salt. I do like this thread...inspires me to try it in more than just my cole slaw!

            2. re: masha

              ^^^What they said!^^^
              But my cole slaw dressing is the same dressing I use (adapted from Nanny, my mom's mom) for both potato salad AND chicken salad. It's probably pretty similar to what the rest of you use to dress these salads, too, but for fun, here's the recipe...

              And here's THE BIG REVEAL, my chow confession, if you will. I've been making it with Hellman's, but Nanny made hers with Miracle Whip, and next round--guess what--we're heading into the wayback machine to see if I like it even better that way (bet I do). :) Here's to ya, Nanny!

            3. Celery seeds have been part of my life since childhood. My mother used them, along with seasoned salt and paprika, in her milk poached eggs she served on English muffins, a favorite childhood breakfast. As a young bride on a tight food budget, I found celery seed extremely useful in things such as the dressing for a potato or macaroni salad when I didn't have fresh celeery in the house, then using chopped pickles or cucumbers for the crunch that was missing from fresh celery. I (very nearly always) make my own barbecue sauce from scratch and celery seed has always been an important ingredient. I've been cooking for at least sixty years now, and can't remember a time when celery seed, both whole and ground, have not been on my spice shelf.

              Dill seed and weed have been critical in my kitchen for a few years less than celery seed. I tend to use dill seed more in moist cooking and pickling wheras dill weed is one of my favorite ingredients for vinaigrette, egg or tuna salad, and a whole bunch of other things. In Turkish cooking, there is an important flavor partnership in many dishes between fresh dill weed and fresh mint.

              If you want to build something, you've GOT TO have the right tools! And that goes for cooking too. Herbs and spices are critical tools. I'm blessed with a pretty big tool box. '-)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                Milk-poached eggs? In seasoned milk? I am fascinated. I adore poached eggs and am always looking for another application, but I've never done them in milk. Details, if you would be so kind?

                1. re: LauraGrace

                  My mother used an aluminum frying pan, I use an 8 inch non-stick frying pan for eggs for just me. Pour milk into it deep enough to cover the eggs. Bring to a simmer and sprinkle the top of the milk generously with season salt, paprika (I use Szeged sweet Hungarian paprika) and some celery seed (whole or ground), but NOT celery salt because the season salt has more than enough. I use Lawry's. Bring the milk to a simmer and slide in two or three eggs. Give the eggs about 20 seconds to firm up a tiny bit, then slide a rubber spatula under them to move them off their original settling place. This helps prevent sticking and promotes getting them out unbroken. Simmer for the time you would use for doneness when poaching eggs in water. Toast some English muffins, place half a buttered English muffin for each egg in a wide soup plate. And of course butter is optional, but I like lots of it! Remove poached eggs from milk and slide onto muffins. There will be seasoned and colored foam on top of the milk after eggs are removed. I spoon that and some of the milk onto the poached eggs, How much of the milk you add is a personal thing. I basically turn mine into poached eggs on milk toast! If you want to get fancy you can top the English muffin halves with bacon or ham or Canadian bacon a la eggs Benedict before topping with the eggs. I love this on a cool morning with a mug of steaming espresso (yes! Mug, not cup!). For whatever strange reason, lately I've been thinking about poaching in buttermilk... hmmm.... One of these days I may give it a shot.

              2. Just a note that what the supermarkets sell as celery seed is actually lovage, a related plant. Why, I don't know.

                4 Replies
                1. re: greygarious

                  I'm not sure about the lovage seed substitution. It may be true that lovage seed is used in certain countries instead of celery, and it is true that lovage and celery are related plants, but read on:

                  Most celery seed comes from "Apium graveolens" which is related, but not identical, to the vegetable celery. This cultivar of celery is largely grown in India, China and France for it's seed. Historically, celery, in it's earliest form, was known as "smallage," a wild bitter marsh plant, which was eventually cultivated into what we now understand as the vegetable celery. Wild marsh celery produces most of the seed known and sold as celery seed in the supermarket. Lovage and the wild marsh celery both produce quantities of seed and are not used for much else, culinarily speaking. So most likely you're getting wild celery seed, but possibly lovage, when you purchase celery seed. No matter, they both have very similar flavor.

                  My mom used celery seed in her potato saIad when I was young, which was my first exposure to it, and I still do it today, as one seasoning option. I frequently use both celery and dill in my kitchen, for the more common applications of coleslaw, potato and egg salads, various pasta and vegetable salads, salad dressings, pickling, beverages and in homemade mustards, but I also like both seeds sprinkled on flatbreads or breadsticks, and dill seed in biscuits or with onion and cheese in quickbreads. Both seeds are great in sour cream or yogurt based dips, Eastern European soups, and celery seed is sometimes used in Indian curry blends.

                  Lovage can be easily grown as an addition to an herb garden; the leaves can be used as a sub for celery, or let the plants go to seed and save the seedheads.

                  Chewing on dill seed is useful for ridding oneself of hiccups and to aid in digestion.
                  Celery seed is good for arthritic conditions.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    It may be true that lovage is not used for much other than its seeds -- but it should be used more.

                    The fresh lovage leaves have a great celery-like flavor. We love it in salads and other things.

                    Also, when the plants get big enough -- and they can get big after the first year -- the bigger stalks are hollow. And can be used as straws for bloody marys!!

                    I love the stuff. I had some big plants that my SO transplanted and they did not do well. So we planted new ones this year and so far they are looking great.

                    1. re: karykat

                      Yes, lovage is great for the herb garden, as I mentioned, it's just not cultivated on any large commercial level. We can find it at farmer's markets here in NYC, though.

                      I personally think it's loads easier to grow than celery.

                      1. re: karykat

                        Several years ago we had a delicious cream of lovage soup at a restaurant in Scotland. It was similar to a watercress soup. I'd never even heard of lovage before then.

                  2. I haven't come across dill seed (but would buy it if I saw it), but celery seed is a must in my egg salad (I'm on a kick right now - such a pain, but SO good).

                    It's also a must in dressings for me, but goes into other things as I feel the urge. One thing I've learned - one little jar of celery seed will last forever, but last forever well - they don't seem to lose their flavor the way most herbs/spices do.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: shanagain

                      Another confession--someone gave my mom a spice rack when we moved in 1990--the year I graduated from college. This spring, when I was on my chicken salad kick, my mom said, "Oh, I have celery seed. You don't need to buy any." And I thought, what the heck, if it's tasteless, I'll just pick up some more...but it was perfecty fine, just as shanagain said. They are magical little seeds, aren't they? :) They last forever well indeed.

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        Isn't it just amazing how long whole spices will last? My brother and sis-in-law have one of those spice racks from God knows how long ago, and the dill seed and coriander are just dandy after all these years. I have cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seed.... all whole and all of which I expect will last me years if need be.

                    2. My mother always used celery seed in tuna salad and one of her cole slaw recipes, as I do now. One application not yet mentioned is in stewed tomatoes - just needs a little but the celery seed is the magic ingredient in this dish! Nice in pickle brine too.

                      1. Explore this guy's spice pages. He has done a real service for those that want to understand more about them. If anyone has links of this caliber, please post them.

                        Celery page, but click around to others, too:




                        1 Reply
                        1. re: FoodFuser

                          An excellent resource, thanks for posting the link.

                        2. use celery seed and dill in deviled eggs, cole slaw, potato salad