Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Herb of the Week - Cilantro

This is not a complete herb of the week style post, so I reserve the right to go back and do Cilantro again, but truthfully with the weather the way it is I just had to say a few words about Cilantro and how it bolts in hot weather like this.

So this week's Herb of the week is: Cilantro (coriander) Cariandrum sativum

I live in the suburbs of Chicago and we do have record breaking 100 degree days around here in the summer, but they came early this year.  Usually you can guarentee that they arrive just in time for Taste of Chicago which is not until around the 4th of July.  We are a month ahead of schedule and it is wrecking havoc in the garden.  The plants do not know whether to produce leaves and get taller or make flowers and seed and end the cycle of summer.  Cilantro is always a victim of hot weather.

My Cilantro is growing quickly this year and if this heat continues it is going to bolt.   When a plant bolts it runs quickly to seed.  Since Cilantro is both an herb and a spice once it moves toward flowering and producing seed, it can no longer be harvested as cilantro.  The serrated round leaves of cilantro change in shape and characteristic to a feathery leaf and loose their pungent flavor that is so popular in Thai cooking and Salsa.  So when the plants get tall enough to begin making flowers you must gather all the cilantro you can, because the transformation can happen overnight. 

Coriander leaves
If your cilantro is beginning to bolt I recommend you make as much salsa as you can and perhaps try this great recipe.  This is not only a dressing but a great marinade and sauté.

Cilantro & Soy Dressing

2 Tbls. chopped cilantro
2 Tbls. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. clear honey
1 tsp. wholegrain mustard
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbls. sesame oil
1/3 cup peanut oil

Beat all the ingredients together and use as required.

You cannot stop cilantro from bolting, although there are a few slow bolt varieties that are available to grow.  You will still need to sow a new set of seeds about every two weeks if you want a continuous crop.  It is the same thing you need to do with dill.

Here is another recipe where you can use your cilantro.

Cilantro Salsa

Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 jalapeno peppers, seeds and white stuff removed, finely minced
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup leaves)
Juice of 3 limes
Heaping Tbls. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Couple grinds black pepper, not too much
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in refrigerator for up to 12 hours to meld flavors.

Salsa Verde

¾ cup parsley leaves
½ cup mixed herbs, such as basil, chives, cilantro and mint
1 garlic clove, chopped
6 green olives, pitted
1 Tbls. capers, rinsed and drained
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Vegetables and bread to serve the salsa

Put all the ingredients, except the oil in a food mixer and blend to form a smooth paste.  Gradually blend in the oil to form a sauce, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as a dip with a selection of raw or cooked vegetables and fresh bread.

If you do not grow cilantro, but these recipes made you hungry for it, check out our herb mixes for a few made with cilantro, like our Cilantro Spread or Salsa blends.

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