Cilantro is the king of spring. It is a tender herb that, like dill, is in season right now, so get it into your deck pots and garden boxes... soon.
Plant tender herbs now and they will produce a bounty of aromatic leaves without bolting. Cilantro’s foliage thrives from Easter to Father’s Day. Look for locally grown starter plants, propagated in your micro-climate. Let’s keep it real: plants started from seed in the south just do better in southern gardens. #evenmyplantsaresouthern
My local organic farm is Greenbrier Farms. Chad and Amy Bishop grow two greenhouses and two hoophouses of organic herbs and veggies to sell at their annual plant sale. If you’re in the Greenville, South Carolina area this Saturday, it's from 9am-4pm.
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Chad grows Calipso, a variety of cilantro known for slow bolting. He says to never buy the biggest, baddest plant on the table. It’s likely too mature to do well in a raised environment.
Go for a small, young plant, that’s bright green. A plant in a three-inch pot is about three weeks old, an ideal size to transplant. Cilantro will not root off the stem so plant at soil level in a location that gets both sun and shade.
If you want to grow cilantro from seed, Chad recommends sowing it heavily in a row several feet long. It will come up in bunches. Simply harvest it with scissors, giving it a haircut and it will grow right back.
Amy likes young cilantro leaves. She hand picks them off the stem whole and uses them in the many events they cater at Greenbrier Farms. She says it's cilantro that tastes like spring, in slaw and salad dressing and on top of early vegetables, like asparagus. It creates brightness on the palate and is one of the season’s first whole foods.
Sun leaches the flavor from cilantro, waxing its leaves and setting flowers. By July, pick the edible flowers to top salads and dips. When your plants do bolt, cut off berry-ladened stems and put them upside down in a paper bag until the dried berries drop. If you have a spice grinder, you’ll soon have your very own ground coriander with its sweet floral aroma.
It’s too early to make basil pesto, but just the right time for cilantro pesto. Toss this with pasta or spread it on a sandwich. It’s especially nice atop an omelet.