Garden Clippings for May 5, 2018

As time goes on I find that I am becoming more of a foodie.  Oh, there’s plenty times that I come home after work and prepare the no-brainer tried and true meat and potatoes dinner that I can whip up in a hurry.  But now more than ever, I find myself looking up new recipes and taking risks with new ingredients.

The fact that Ben, our youngest, has chosen to become a vegetarian has also helped give me the nudge to crack open a cookbook.  And when his vegan girlfriend visits, I am happily forced to become even more creative.  That’s a good thing.  I am now making less trips to the supermarket and more trips to the backyard veggie garden.

Last week’s Garden Clippings heralded the pleasure and benefits of growing basil in the garden or on the windowsill.  Today we will deal with Cilantro.  Or is it Coriander?

To set the record straight, Cilantro is the green plant with stems and leaves.  Coriander is the seed that is produced and harvested once the Cilantro produces flowers.   Sort of like a chicken and egg.

Cilantro is a bright green herb that resembles flat parsley.  Pinch a few leaves between your fingers and you will quickly realise that its flavour is nowhere near parsley.  Cilantro has a distinctive flavour that will give punch to so much food.

Unlike most herbs that don’t mind poor soil that is allowed to dry out, Cilantro benefits from moisture.  It wants to be planted where it receives full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Cilantro is a cool season crop that performs best and is most flavourful in spring and fall.  It is a quick grower that will produce plenty leaves.  In the hot months of July and August, Cilantro can quickly bolt, putting energy into flower and seed production at the expense of green leaves.  Cilantro has the same growing habit as celery and lettuce which are also cool season crops.

Don’t worry if your Cilantro bolts in summer and produces blooms.  The flowers are great pollinators and are good friends of honeybees.  Once flowers begin to fade, small round seeds appear.   Gather the seeds while green and store them in the fridge or freezer for use all winter long.  The flavour of Coriander seeds bears no resemblance to its parent leaves.

If you’d like, allow the seeds to remain on the plant till they dry up and turn brown.  Put the dried flower head in a paper bag and in a few days the seeds will easily fall away from the flower heads.  Crush and grind up the seeds for a fresh spice that has far more flavour than the commercially bottled product.

Cilantro leaves are easily added to many dishes, including salads, stir fries, rice dishes and pasta.  Sprinkle a few shredded leaves on any food just as you would add parsley garnish.  When using Cilantro in cooked food, add it near the end for optimum flavour.

Coriander seeds are nicely used in bean, rice and vegetable dishes.  Cheryl adds green Coriander seeds to her home made pizza for wildly distinctive flavour.