Easy-to-grow cilantro has a variety of uses
May is here at last and some serious gardening can begin. It has been a chilly, wet spring so far and this month has come with a very welcome burst of fresh green and colorful blooms on trees, shrubs, and spring flowers. These bright colors are a treat to the senses after the gloomy gray of a long winter.
Mid-May is usually the safe planting period for Northwest Ohio, but it is always a good idea to check local weather conditions and temperature forecasts before setting out tender plants. With the very damp conditions we are having this year, be careful about too much walking on the soil in your beds and gardens as this will compact the soil, which reduces its oxygen content. The roots of the transplants and seeds you will be putting into your beds will need this oxygen to help them get off to a good growing start.
If you plan to grow herbs this year, you may want to try an easy-to-grow variety that can be used in cooking a variety of dishes. Cilantro adds a delicious citrus-like parsley flavor to foods and has become a very popular kitchen herb.
Cilantro can be grown from seed in the garden and it prefers a moist, well-drained location that will receive at least six hours of sun per day. This herb grows quickly and you can usually begin to harvest the leaves in about three to four weeks. When the plant is 2 inches tall, apply a liquid fertilizer and, if you want a harvest of the herb all season, continue to plant more seeds every two to three weeks until late summer. To encourage more leaf growth, pinch back the plants about 1 inch. Do not allow the plants to flower or produce seed pods as this will cause the leaves to become bitter.
When you harvest cilantro leaves, try to use the upper, fine leaves rather than the lower, ferny ones. Cilantro should be used fresh and, if you have a delay from harvesting to use, you can place the cilantro in a glass of cold water for a day or two. It can also be kept fresh by washing it and wrapping the sprigs in paper towels. Keep these in the refrigerator and it will retain its flavor for about a week. Dried cilantro tends to lose its flavor but, by raising it yourself, you can have plenty to use through the growing season.
Cilantro is delicious in salsas and salads. It is good with vegetables, especially corn and green beans. It can be used to flavor meat dishes and is a staple for cooking Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian foods.
A favorite use for cilantro in our home is in a very healthy, low-calorie, and very tasty dip or sandwich spread that is so easy to make and a perfect cool dish for the warm weather soon to come. The ingredients are simple and easy to find, you may want to try it.
1 can Garbanzo beans (chick peas). Drain off liquid in can.
¼ cup fresh cilantro, copped
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ c. chopped red onion
Salt to taste
Blend the beans and avocado in a blender or mash with a fork to chunky consistency. Mix in the chopped onion, cilantro, pepper, and salt. Store in refrigerator in covered container.
Use it as a dip, sandwich spread on flatbread, tortilla wraps, etc.
Along with herbs, you may want to grow some of your own vegetables this summer. It is a great way to save money and have fresh, healthy produce for your family’s meals. If you have never grown vegetables before, or it has been a while since you have gardened, you may want to start out with some very easy-to-grow varieties. Try some cherry tomatoes, green beans, radishes, lettuces, and cucumbers. Whether you have a small plot, a large garden space, or perhaps some containers; any or all of these varieties will provide a harvest of good taste.