Some people claim that cilantro tastes soapy to them. One friend who is an avid cook and gardener loathes the taste of cilantro and claims an allergy when eating out to avoid it in her food. There is some debate about whether this dislike of cilantro is genetic or a function of cultural exposure. The great chef Julia Child was not a fan of cilantro - but neuroscientist Dr. Jay Gottfiend, once a cilantro hater, changed his mind and enjoys it. So don't let that stop you from growing and using this tasty herb if you haven't explored it yet!
Cilantro is an annual that is fairly easy to grow. Seeds can be sewn directly in the ground in mid to late spring well after the frost date has past. We scatter seeds in prepared beds that are about 2' x 4'. We often sow them every few weeks starting in May (depending on the weather of course). Seeds will also be started in pots in the greenhouse as early as February and March. We aim for ~5 seeds per pot and have had good luck with high germination rates. The seeds are often a little slow to germinate so don’t get too anxious if little shoots don’t appear for even as long as 14 days. You could transfer the 3" - 4" seedlings into larger pots for patios or small spaces, or even plant out to your garden as well.
It will grow to 12 -18 inches with lacy leaves and small delicate white flowers. It does not like really hot weather and is apt to bolt quickly in the heat of summer. Harvesting regularly can help slow bolting some, but when hot weather hits, it can be challenging. Don't forget it's the plant's imperative goal to make sure it produces seeds to carry on it's legacy! Cilantro doesn’t require any special soil or sun conditions, except to slow bolting growing in shade will help. We try to grow ours in the back part of the garden with nice morning sun, close to where a large Cascara tree grows, providing afternoon shade.
For fresh cilantro, snip several clumps of stems near the ground. These can be stored in a jar of water in the refrigerator covered loosely with a plastic bag for about a week. You can extend the life of fresh cilantro in your fridge and keep it super fresh by changing the water every couple of days. When you need a few leaves, snip – wash - use. Cilantro leaves dry well, too, so you’ll have some for later. Use any of a number of drying techniques - brown bag, dehydrator or microwave. Crush the dried leaves and store in a glass container in a cool, dry dark place. It will also freeze well in ice cube trays covered with water, blending with oil of your choice to make a cilantro pesto (YUM!) which can be frozen, or rolled tightly into a "cigar" in a plastic freezer bag. These can be good options for when you have a bumper crop and limited time (and maybe imagination - let's face it - when the garden is booming, it can be a bit overwhelming!). Plus you'll have that fresh taste of summer waiting in your freezer for winter days begging for a little bit of green herbal sunshine!
If your cilantro plant bolted, worry not! Let it continue on it's journey towards producing seeds - the spicy coriander seeds. To save these delicious spicy seeds, when the foliage turns brown and the seeds are gray-brown, cut off the flower heads and dry them in a brown paper bag indoors (don't forget to label the bag!). After a few weeks in a cool, dry place, shake out the seeds and store in a glass jar.
Cilantro and coriander have very different distinct flavors. Coriander is one of the ingredients in curry powder and pickling spice. It is found in a wide range of foods from baked apples to tasty sausages. Cilantro has a spicy, peppery taste and has long been used in Mexican and Chinese foods. Try them both and give your dishes a splash of spice.
Here are some recipes to try. If you’d like a quick flavor burst of cilantro for any dish, try Garden Delights Mexican Blend. We know some people who have enjoyed this blend on eggs, in meatloaf and even on pizza sauce (okay not sure we can totally get behind this one - bit if it makes your taste buds happy go for it!).
Spicy Sausage Soup
Prep and Cook Time: 60 min
2 lbs Italian sausage links, casings removed, and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ C beef broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
1 (15.5 ounce) can white hominy
1 C sliced carrots
1 ¾ C great northern beans (or other white bean), cooked
2 small zucchini, cubed
2 C chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
In a large skillet over medium heat, combine sausage and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until sausage is evenly browned. Drain cooked sausage, if desired. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, combine the beef broth, hominy, stewed tomatoes, carrots, beans, and zucchini. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and add sausage and cilantro; simmer for 15 minutes, or until carrots and zucchini are tender. Season with salt and pepper
Orange Cilantro Rice
Prep and Cook Time: 35 min
2 tsp butter
½ C diced onion
1 C uncooked long grain white rice
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 ½ C orange juice
½ C chicken broth
½ C chopped fresh cilantro
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in onion, and cook until tender. Mix in rice, and season with cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt. Cook and stir until rice is golden brown. Pour in orange juice and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove cooked rice from heat, and gently mix in cilantro to serve.