Herb of the Week: Cilantro


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!

Herb of the Week: Chives

We are starting a gardening section here on our blog at Smiling Goat Farm. Enjoy!

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. This week, we’ll be doing chives.

This week we’ll be covering chives!  Chives are not really a true herb (they are in the onion family), although I lump them into the herb family because I use them to garnish dishes, mostly potato dishes, stews, and sauces, and to add quick, healthy flavor.  It’s also a great time to talk about chives because right now in my garden (early March), I am seeing bright green shoots about four inches tall emerge from the cool, overwintered dirt. They are one of the first edibles to return in late winter. As soon as they are 8-9 inches high (and that will likely be by the end of March or early April here in the Northwest), you can start to cut them and add them to your cooking.  I just use my kitchen scissors.  Cut only what you need and snip them near the base. 

High in vitamin C, they spread like crazy.  Every year I dig a big chive clump out with my garden fork, chop the thick root mat into halves or thirds with my spade, give a few clumps away, and stick one of my remaining clumps back in the ground.  You don’t have to do this unless you need the space.  They are hard to kill so don’t feel bad as mangled as they appear after chopping them up.  Just water them in well.  

I also keep at least three chive clumps growing at once.  Here’s why:  Chives need to be completely cut back 2-3 times during the growing season.  If you don’t, they will get leggy, go to seed, and you won’t have nice fresh shoots for eating. If you keep three or so plants, you can rotate so that you always have fresh new shoots for eating. The flower heads put on quite a show, as those lavender-colored puff balls are a wonderful bee attractant.  Once the flower heads have dried out, they will drop their seeds and provide you with an even larger clump the next year (or, shake some of the tiny black globular seeds into a pan and give them away!)