Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cilantro….Not Just for Salsa

Cilantro flowering

Mysterious Cilantro…or is it coriander?  Both!  Cilantro and coriander come from the same plant.  When the plant is cultivated for its pungent, aromatic leaves, it is called cilantro.  When is allowed to go to seed and cultivated for its citrus-flavored seeds, it is called coriander.  Two great spices all rolled up into one plant!

Cilantro is an annual grown during the cooler times of the year.  Once temperatures start to steadily stay warm the plant will start to bolt.  In our case here in Southern Utah that can be anywhere from the end of March to the end of May.  I like to plant cilantro seed in September (zone 8) and use a light row cover through the coldest months of winter to keep it from getting ‘freezer burn’ and it will continue to grow.  This way we will have fresh cilantro all winter long.  I usually get a second planting in come mid-January.  This way when the fall sowing has become tired out, the next session is ready to go.  You can shade your cilantro to help keep it from bolting as early with some row cover, but it will bolt when it wants to bolt!

Plant your seed 1/2 inch deep in well composted soil.  It will take 7-10 days to germinate at temperatures of 50-75 degrees.  I prefer planting from seed more than I do from a plant.  Plants will always bolt faster!  Plus you get a lot more bang for your buck with direct seed sowing.   Plant in full sun to part shade.  Cilantro is such a great crop, because it rarely has any pest or disease problems.  I don’t recommend that you fertilize much other then adding some compost, rock phosphate and greensand at the time of sowing the seed.  If you give cilantro too much nitrogen, it will reduce the pungent flavor.  You can sow seeds every two weeks during the spring to have an extended harvest.  If you live in a cool area, your season will last through the summer.  Lucky!  We are just to hot here to have fresh cilantro out in the garden when the tomatoes are ripe!  Keep cutting back and using the plant through the growing season.  By doing this it will also slow the bolting a bit.  Once your plant starts to send up seed stocks it’s time to keep an eye on it so you can collect seeds for coriander spice or replanting.  After the plant goes to seed and the seeds turn yellowish-brown, bunch the seed heads together, place upside down in a paper bag, then allow seeds to ripen until they drop into the bag.  Coriander seeds will stay viable for about 5 years.

Use cilantro leaves fresh in salads, salsa, marinades, stir-fries, rice, pasta, or vinegar and with fish and shellfish.  Add leaves to guacamole or to Chinese soups and Asian chicken dishes.  Try growing cilantro for micro greens.  Use coriander seed to flavor confections, bread, cakes biscuits and mexican dishes.  Don’t forget to garnish!

Here is a high-five for cilantro!   1 fistful of organic cilantro (of course you wouldn’t use anything else….Right?) a day for 10 days straight will flush your body of serious heavy metals that can accumulate in your body these days.  There is a compound in cilantro that mercury (and other heavy metals) binds to and then gets released through the urine as a natural chelation technique. The body will not function properly with heavy metals and cilantro is cheap, easy, safe and could be available right in your garden.  Another great reason to grow cilantro!  Okay.. Not enough to get you growing it?  Think about this;  Cilantro will also help promote healthy liver function, lower blood sugar, ward off urinary tract infections, aid digestion and it’s an anti-inflammatory plus so many other benefits.  Well you get the picture!  Cilantro is not just for salsa!

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Growing Globe Artichokes

ImageAt At the ends of my long raised beds, tucked here and there through out my yard are silver leaved perennials that look almost prehistoric.  They are the artichokes!   Reaching up to 4 foot tall with a spread of over 5 feet when full grown.  Artichokes are not only grown in my garden for drama, but for there immature seed heads which are eaten cooked.  Once cooked they can be served warm or cold with our favorite, melted butter and scraping the tender fleshed petal through your teeth.  Artichokes are prized for serving with pastas and Mediterranean dishes.  No wonder, they are native to the Mediterranean and have been cultivated for years.  As forbidding as the artichoke looks with it’s armor of fibrous, thorny leaves, this thistle bud offers a culinary treasure with a tender, delicious heart.

Bear in mind, when planting artichokes, they need a substantial amount of space!  Globe artichokes do best in a sunny, sheltered site in well-drained soil, with plenty of well decomposed compost.  ‘THE ARTICHOKE IS TO BE PLANTED IN A FAT AND FRUITFUL SOILE: THEY DOE LOVE WATER AND MOIST GROUND.’  Gerard’s Herbal, 1597.  Artichokes grow best in area where the winter temperatures are mild.  You can mulch or heap leaves or straw above the roots during winter to help warm the plants.  In hot, dry regions, buds can become tough or open too soon.  In our hot Southern Utah area they enjoy afternoon shade with moist conditions.  Propagation can be done by divisions or by seed.  When planting from seed start indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost at the depth of 1/4″ with soil temperatures of 70-80 degrees and 10-14 days to germination.  For a jump start, buy larger plants which can produce chokes the first year whereas starting from seed,  it could take a year or more to produce.  Don’t be fooled by the looks of your artichoke!  They may seem like they would be drought tolerant, but they enjoy liquid!  Keep the soil moist.  Never allow roots to dry out, but don’t saturate the ground or leave standing water either.  If the plants are allowed to dry out and wilt they can become weak and die or their bud production will be few if any at all.  Fertilize when you first plant your artichokes with compost and blood meal.  Fertilize established plants in the spring and autumn with a good dose of low-nitrogen fertilizer such as soft rock phosphate and minerals like azomite.  In spring time I will apply Kelp Meal made into a tea or just directly around the base every 2 weeks to give the buds a big boost.  Pick chokes when they are firm, but not opening up yet for best tenderness and flavor.  This is usually mid-summer time.  Cut back the stalks as low as possible after all artichokes have been picked.  This will send energy to the root system.  I even cut out the larger leaves that become yellow and raggedy looking after harvest.  If you are growing for the ornamental purposes, the flowers are amazing!  I always leave behind a few buds just for the incredibly bright flowers that the bees love too!Image

Aphids can be a problem.  If this is the case use a strong jet of water to knock them off.  If they persist you can use a insecticidal soap to control them. Another very annoying pest is the earwig.  I simply sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the base of the plants and also when the buds are forming I will sprinkle it over the bud to prevent the earwigs from entering.

Umm…Delish dipping sauce!  Try this with your artichokes they next time you fix them.  Steam artichokes until tender. 30-50 min.  Meanwhile, whisk 1 large egg yolk and 1/2 tsp water in a small bowl.  When mixture thickens and turns opaque, add 1 cup olive oil in a steady drizzle, whisking constantly.  Stir in 2 T of fresh dill chopped and 2 tsp fresh lemon juice.  Season with salt.

Azomite, Blood Meal, Soft Rock Phosphate, Kelp Meal, insecticidal Soap, Diatomaceous Earth

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