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Gardening with Laurie: Cilantro good cool-weather plant

Nov. 17, 2011 at 5:17 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson Having been born and raised in South Central Texas, I will freely admit that I have certainly eaten my share of Mexican cuisine. In fact, I eat lots of Mexican food. I really, really do love it. That being the case, one of the standard items grown in many of my gardens is cilantro.

Cilantro, which also is frequently used in oriental recipes where it is known as coriander, loves cool weather. If you really love this herb as much as I do, you should have a patch of it growing in your garden, or have a pot of it growing somewhere near your kitchen.

Fall is the best time of the year to grow fresh cilantro for all its delicious aromatic foliage. If you are more interested in saving the seeds of the cilantro plant, then you can also grow it in the spring. Warm and hot weather causes cilantro to quickly bolt and produce seed heads and not much foliage.

Planting cilantro in the fall can provide months of delicious foliage. Planted from seed or transplants, this tasty herb wants lots of sun and fertile, well-drained soil. When starting from seeds, you will find it easy to germinate. As the seeds sprout, remember to thin the seedlings to have room for larger plants to form. I use all the thinned out seedlings in salads.

You will find that your cilantro plants will easily tolerate cold weather. Temperatures down to the mid 20s are easily handled. If temperatures are to stay in the 20s for hours, you should throw some frost fabric or a blanket over the plants. If covering with blankets, remember to remove them once the temperature warms up.

Rarely do I find or hear of insect problems with cilantro. Once, I did have some aphids on some of my cilantro plants, but a strong blast of water from my garden hose put an end to them. I did have someone once mention they had a few leaf miners on their plants, but they did nothing and never had a problem again.

I use a lot of fresh cilantro, but it can easily be dried for later use. Simply rinse off the foliage, and pat it try. I lay the washed cilantro on a clean dish towel, roll it up, and then gently press on the roll to get rid of any excess moisture. Next, lay the cilantro out in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven. Check the foliage every 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the leaves aren't burning. Once the leaves are dried and crispy, remove them from the oven. Let them cool off, crumble them and store in a cool, dry place, and use as needed. Always wait until the last 20 to 30 minutes to add the cilantro to a cooked recipe; otherwise all that wonderful flavor will be cooked out.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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