The clock is ticking, what do you do?

I love growing cilantro.  Well, I love part of it, but I hate it when it bolts. If you’re not familiar with growing cilantro, “bolting” is when the cilantro flowers, and it changes the leaves’ texture and taste, and pretty much renders it disgusting to eat.  Not all is lost.  The seeds can be harvested, and some people toast and grind the seeds to use as coriander.  You can also save the seeds to plant in the future, they are pretty easy to germinate.  But it is really disappointing when you go from having a whole lot of great cilantro that turns overnight into something inedible. 

Cilantro generally bolts when the temperatures go up in the summer.  This week here in Pittsburgh, the temperature was scheduled to hit over 90 degrees two days in a row (today being the first).  In anticipation, I cut much of the cilantro this morning to make sure we got to enjoy one of our favorite herbs a few more times.  

Cilantro doesn’t usually keep well.  It doesn’t dry well and it doesn’t have a really long shelf life. There are a couple things you can do to keep it around though.  In a recent post, I did talk about a blend we make called recado verde, a seasoning for just about all things.  This mix freezes well.  We rarely measure anything when we make this mix, and sometimes change up the ingredients.  Today I used probably 2 bunches of cilantro, ½ a white onion, 4 small sweet peppers, juice from 2 keylimes, a couple sprigs of parsley, 4 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and some olive oil. You can add any other spices/seasonings you thing might be good in the mix.  We blend in a food processor until it’s fairly liquidy.  I used it today to cook our rice and to season our beans at the end of their cooking.  

Another thing I did with the bounty of cilantro was make a sauce inspired by one of our favorite restaurants.  Cilantro and Ajo is our favorite Latin restaurant in Pittsburgh.  All of their food is amazing, and they even have cilantro in their name!  They have a dipping sauce, and I *tried* to recreate it at home with the cilantro overstock.  Theirs is a creamy white, garlicky, cilantro-y sauce.  I think we got it pretty close, but not exactly the same as theirs.  

In a food processor, I blended about 1.5 cups of greek yogurt, ½ a cup of shredded parmigiano reggiano, 2 large bunches of cilantro, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of ½ a lime, and salt.  This turned out pretty good, but not as good as at Cilantro and Ajo.  I’m not going to ask them to divulge their secrets, but we will keep experimenting at home to try to get the right mix.  

For those of you who are facing the same dilemma, what do you do?  How do you manage to utilize all of the cilantro before it bolts?

As disappointing as it is that cilantro bolts and the season for it ends, there is a silver lining to this cloud.  Cilantro does have a second growing season.  I usually plant it out in the spring, and then I’ll start some seeds in September too for some fall cilantro.  Usually with the shrinking daylight hours you don’t get quite as much, but you can usually get some into October.  A welcome addition to many fall meals.    

In the end, I do love cilantro so much that it is very much worth the frustration. Even with the bolting, cilantro brightens up our meals in spring and fall. I love the stuff. (That sentiment is not universally agreed upon).

All the best!

Cilantro seedlings
Cilantro seedlings. You can start them in the winter for spring planting or in September for fall planting.
Patacones (or tostones) with our cilantro garlic dipping sauce


Published by scottmeneely

Gardener passionate about organic gardening, fresh food, sustainable landscaping, home brewing, and much more! Our nursery also includes my wife and 2 kids. We work together, learn together, and travel together. My wife is Panamanian and we try to grow lots of good Latin American ingedients. We live in Baldwin, Pennsylvania in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

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