Spring and Cilantro

Yesterday afternoon the sun came between clouds for moments and the temperature reached 70 F (21 C). I walked out with my five-month-old grandson in my arm and enjoyed the warm air and the sight of crocus and narcissus blooms. I stooped down and pinched some cilantro with my free hand which went into some guacamole. Today it’s raining and the forecast is that by noon it will change to an ice/snow mix. Glad we enjoyed the moments we had.

Cilantro, which becomes coriander when it goes to seed, needs to be used fresh. When cooked or dried its flavor is almost completely lost. And the flavor is one that people either love or despise. Being able to harvest your own when you want it can be a challenge. It isn’t hard to grow, but in hot weather it quickly goes to seed. Having it ready when tomatoes and peppers are coming in is a challenge.

When I gardened in Minnesota, there was a timing tip that solved the issue. Planting cilantro when the first green tomatoes started forming would result in cilantro being ready with other fresh salsa ingredients. That tip also works in the South, but only for the first part of the tomato season. Here the tomato harvest extends from early July to late October. More than a single planting of cilantro is needed to keep a fresh supply throughout the season. Sowing seeds every 2-3 weeks can keep a supply coming in through the summer months. And in the hottest times sowing indoors will provide better germination. Outdoor soil temps in the mid-summer can be too high for cilantro to get started.

Despite cilantro being part of cuisine from hot climates of Mexico and India, the plant does best in cool to mild temperatures. When it does go to seed in the garden, there are still benefits. The umbel flower attracts beneficial insects. And the seeds can be used as coriander or left to reseed naturally.

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