Have you ever checked on your cilantro and thought all was good? It’s nicely green with tender thin leaves, but you know you’re tomatoes and peppers are weeks away from harvesting.
You cross your fingers hoping the cilantro will still be lovely when your tomatoes are juicy and red. You’re planning to make salsa and you just want it all to come to fruition at the right harvesting moment. That grand gardening plan that seems to work out so well in everyone else’s garden. Then the next morning on your garden walk you find…
The cilantro sent up its initial flowering stalks overnight! Disappointment…again. You just want to pull all those plants and be done with it. This happened to me this morning, but I acted quickly. If you act quickly, you’ll have the cilantro you need at the right time.
Saving Cilantro Before It Seeds
Cilantro is known for being heat sensitive, but it’s also a great addition to fresh salsa and other tomato based recipes. It’s incredibly frustrating when it’s ready before your tomatoes are. After trying several methods of growing cilantro, I decided that in my climate my cilantro and tomatoes are never going to be ready at the same time. While this sounds defeatist it actually pushed me to resolve my cilantro dilemma. I now grow my cilantro in two ways. I first begin a small amount of cilantro seeds indoors . These I transfer to containers that I keep in easy reach for daily mealtimes. Then, I also direct-sow a larger quantity into the border of my smallish garden. I harvest this cilantro all at once and freeze for making salsa later in the season.
Today when I found that my cilantro had unexpectedly sent up flower shoots, I started harvesting. The center portion of my cilantro was the most mature and sported the tallest, healthiest flower stalks. Those plants I let remain to finish their cycle, flower, and reseed into my garden. Now next year I’ll have a start on a cilantro patch without having to plant anything.
Next, I harvested all the smaller plants by pulling them out, clipping off their roots. I’ll compost the roots and stems, and save the leaves. This took just a few minutes. Then I started tasting cilantro. Since I grow organically, I often taste straight from the garden. If I found the cilantro too bitter, I pulled and composted. If I liked the flavor, it went into my basked to preserve. I can taste and clip pretty quickly. The whole process took less than 10 minutes. At the end, this was my harvest.
That is plenty for my needs. Sometime I think as gardeners we feel we need enough to feed ourselves and the whole block! But, a half harvest basket is more than enough for my needs. As they say, a little goes a long way.
The next steps to preserve cilantro are EASY! I freeze mine in ice cube trays. It’s simple and while the cilantro will get a bit darker, the change in color is not a deal breaker for fresh salsa.
Steps to Freeze Cilantro
- Wash and dry your harvest. I first spin it dry in a lettuce spinner, then dump it on paper towels and pat dry.
- Remove the leaves from the stalks
- Coursely chop with a large chef knife. Using a larger, sharp knife cuts through the leaves cleanly preserving more flavor in each leaf.
- Add a tablespoon of freshly chopped cilantro to each compartment of an ice cube tray. Then fill each section with cold water.
- Cover with foil and freeze.
- Once frozen, you can remove them to a sealed container and use when needed.
That’s it, so simple! I’ll be making several types of salsa later this summer. I like both the spicy, hot pepper type as well as the sweeter mango salsa. Check back so I can share my recipes with you! I don’t like to spend a ton of time in the kitchen, so I’ll get you making and saving salsa fast.
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