Herb of the Week: Cilantro

WRITTEN BY AMY AMEND

We’re excited to announce that over the next 5 weeks we will be doing a post per week, each post highlighting one of my favorite herbs, why I grow them, and how I use them.

Today, I’m writing all about cilantro. Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs.  It has the most irresistible smell and such fresh flavor.   With its ability to liven up the most drab of dishes, I keep plenty of it fresh on hand all summer long. It does require some planning as I seed it in my garden every 2-3 weeks starting late April.  It has a tendency to bolt and go bitter.

I use it mostly in pico de gallo.  One can usually find a large bowl of it in our fridge (if it even makes it there!) during the warmer months.  We snack on lots of it with tortilla chips and also garnish our tacos and burritos with it.  My recipe is simple: white onion, diced tomato, fresh jalepeno, half of a lime juiced, and salt and pepper.  For me, the taco and meat are just the vehicle; the pico reigns supreme!    White chicken chili is a winter favorite in our house. It calls for cilantro to really flavor it.  I usually try to dry cilantro in my dehydrator every summer.  Nothing beats fresh, but in the winter, dry will do in the chili if I can’t get to the grocery store. I even use dehydrated cilantro in winter time blender salsa with canned tomatoes.  I have also begun to experiment more with Thai dishes, especially fresh spring rolls.  I usually have most of the veggies on hand in the summer from the garden, and the cilantro is the finishing touch.    Here’s the basic recipe that I use.  We often do leftover pulled pork in ours instead of shrimp.

Growing it in the garden:  I look for seed that says “slow to bolt”.  I usually direct sow in late April, but, I am trying some under my grow light right now indoors.  Once large enough, it may just stay in my windowsill – or I may set it out in the garden if temperatures seem reliably warm in a month.  When it is time to direct sow, I usually am over zealous and plant too much, ending up with an early season plethora of the herb -and no tomatoes still for  a couple of months.  No fresh pico. Yet.  But, I continue to plant every 3 weeks or so in order to have a continual supply.   It produces a beautiful and delicate white umbel-like flower that bees love – same family as carrots and dill.  I wouldn’t have summer without it!