By Cindy O’Boyle
In the early spring, the weather is fickle. One day is hot and the next could have a light dusting of snow. It is too early for tender herbs to survive the temperature fluctuations, but there are still plenty of herbs that won’t mind a chilly morning or two, and will still grow just fine. Cilantro is one of my favorite spring herbs.
I grow quite a bit of cilantro from seed. To be honest, it is allowed to escape and reseeds in a specific area. That way, I get the earliest cilantro, AND the latest cilantro that the season offers. This takes the guesswork out of it.
Be sure to start your seeds straight into the ground now. The seeds will tolerate even a light covering of snow, and the minute it is warm enough, they will germinate!
Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley. I find that cilantro provides a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Since it is highly perishable, fresh cilantro should always be stored in the refrigerator. If possible, it should be stored with its roots still attached by placing the roots in a glass of water and covering the leaves with a loosely fitting plastic bag. If the roots have been removed, wrap the cilantro leaves in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Whole cilantro will last about one week, while cilantro leaves will last about three days.
Cilantro may also be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers, yet should not be thawed before use since it will lose much of its crisp texture. Alternatively, you can place it in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.
Mexican Spice Blend
If your family loves Mexican food as much as mine, you may end up making this mix quite often. It has just the right amount of kick that everyone can enjoy. Add it to ground meat for tacos, burritos and Mexican-themed soups and dips. Adjust the chili powder to get just the right heat.
1/2 Tablespoon Chili powder
1/8 cup epazote leaves, crushed
1/8 cup dried basil leaves, crushed
1/4 cup dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/4 cup dried coriander seeds, ground just before using.
• Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.
Transfer the herb mix into an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.
Cilantro Chili-Lime Cashew Pesto
Cilantro, parsley, chili-lime cashews, and lime juice are blended together in this spicy version of a classic pesto sauce.
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup chili-lime cashews
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1. Put the cilantro, parsley, lime juice, cashews, olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and grated cheese into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, 8 to 10 pulses. If mixture is too thick, add more olive oil; if too thin, add more cashews.
2. Pour into 4 one-cup freezer containers. Use one container within a few days; freeze the others for later.