Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cilantro and Dill: Double Agents in the Garden

Cilantro and dill are two herbs that I have not had to replant for several gardening seasons. They grow so quickly that I have a hard time keeping up with the harvest of their aromatic green leaves and they reseed themselves throughout my untidy, yet productive garden beds of mixed herbs, veggies and flowers. I like to wait each spring to see where they (and an unending tangle of red poppies from a packet of seeds sown at least 8 years ago) will sprout.

This vexes my gardening partner, husband Dan, to no end, so he resorted several years ago to planting his own highly organized, well-edged garden. Where he sees weeds, I see delight in "volunteer" plants that spring unbidden from my soil. Where he sees order in straight, string-straightened rows of vegetables, I see wasted time in planting. His and Hers gardens seem to be equally productive, so we just raise an eyebrow, shake our heads at the other's gardening style and tend our own.

Back to my disorderly garden patch. The cilantro is harvested by washing, snipping and drying the green fronds. I then either freeze them in little baggies as is or mix up some cilantro chutney to freeze in ice cube trays. The frozen chutney cubes are then popped out and put in a baggie for easy access. The chutney cubes are great thawed and mixed with yogurt for a quick raita or used as is for a deceptively cool-looking condiment on the dinner plate.

When I forget about my cilantro patch for a couple of days in midsummer they plants quickly set up seeds, which are also welcome in the kitchen. Cilantro seeds are coriander, which can be used whole in pickles and curries, or can be ground to use in any number of spicy dishes. The seeds need to be thoroughly dried and then I store them in a glass jar, to be ground up as needed in the cheapo coffee grinder I have reserved just for grinding spices. Freshly ground coriander has a much more lemony scent than the store-bought jars of ground coriander.

The same gardening and harvesting methods are used for my never-ending dill patch. Fresh dill is put up in the freezer and thaws quickly to be used in dips, fish recipes, cucumber salads and as a garnish. Once again, my many mobile dill plants seem to grow overnight from fresh green fronds to the leggy, woody stalk stage so I let the heads develop and dry. Some dill heads are used when I put up refrigerator cucumber pickles and the rest are divested of their seeds, spread to dry on a cookie sheet in a sunny window and then stored in a glass jar.

We have an abundance of dill seeds right now, which are used in bread recipes and the occasional sauteed cabbage, but I could use some other recipes featuring dill seeds. Feel free to send me some recipes or links so I can reduce my stash of dill seeds.

I am sending this post over to Weekend Herb Blogging #169, which is hosted this week by the Daily Tiffin. Weekend Herb Blogging is an always enlightening, always delicious blog event hosted by Haalo at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once, from sunny, hot Melbourne, Australia. Check back with the Daily Tiffin after Sunday's deadline to see what awesome cooks from around the world have to offer from their gardens, markets and kitchens.


Maria Verivaki said...

cilantro is one herb we are not used to in crete. i have grown it in the garden, but no one savours its flavour when i add it to salads, for instance. itis widely used in northern africa, but it seems to steer clear of diving across the mediterranean sea and onto crete!

Anonymous said...

I love cilantro and grow it every year. I am going to have to do the ice cube thing with mine. It will also be great for the stuff I'm wasting from the grocery store right now when I don't use the whole bunch in a recipe. I've been eating your Smoky Sweet Potato Soup for lunch this week. Oh, yum. A new favorite.

Amy said...

Mmmm 2 of my absolute favourite herbs ever! Sadly the only thing that I seem to be able to grow with wild abandon (heck the only thing I seem to be able to grow at all) is catnip and there aren't a whole lot of recipes that call for it :P

Alicia Foodycat said...

You must have a real gift for gardening - every time I have tried to grow coriander it has bolted as soon as it gets in the ground! A shame, because I love it and spend a lot of money buying packs of the leaves for salads.

Laurie Constantino said...

How lucky to have such a vital voluteer garden! Your style is more to my liking... Another thing to do with coriander is add the flowers to salads. I also like the greens seeds, and use the in green sauces and with fish.