Of Cilantro, Lettuce, and other Greens

Lettuce, CilantroLast night my husband Phil and I enjoyed a picnic in the nearby Blue Hills complete with a baguette and a tub of cilantro pesto. That’s actually what prompted this post, because the pesto (recipe below) was made a few days ago with cilantro from our garden.

You either love or hate cilantro. Some folks think it tastes like soap. Phil and I don’t. In fact, we adore it, and greatly prefer the slightly sweeter pesto made using cilantro instead of basil. It’s also a very easy—and inexpensive--plant to grow. I started with a small packet of seeds several years ago, and have been profiting from that purchase ever since. That first year I inadvertently let a few of the plants go to seed, and the next year found lots of babies nearby.

I’ve been saving the seed ever since, then planting it in very early spring in a variety of places around the garden. As I’ve already noted, it also re-seeds by itself, resulting in LOTS of plants all over the place. The picture that leads this post shows a cilantro plant that popped up among my lettuces this year.

Before I forget, here’s the recipe for cilantro pesto:

Throw 7-8 cloves of garlic into a food processor. Pulse, then add four big bunches of cilantro. Pulse again, then add about a cup of some sort of nut. I love almonds, which I stock up on when they’re on sale, although you can also use pine nuts or walnuts. Pulse some more, then add about two cups of olive oil and pulse until you’ve got a slightly chunky bright green “sauce.”

Tip: you can either eat the pesto right away, or save it for future use by freezing it in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes out, store in a freezer bag, and you’ve got a ready supply of pesto that will last forever.

Cilantro goes to seed fairly quickly. That said, I often get at least two harvests from the same plant by simply shearing off the top with a large kitchen knife. I also reseed around this time of year so that I'll have more cilantro when the tomatoes come in later this summer (the resulting salsa is amazing). In the fall, when the plants you've let go to seed have done their thing and are brown, throw them into a bag and knead the bag. That'll leave the seeds at the bottom, while you can put the chaff in the compost.

Lettuce and Sorrel

I always forget how wonderful lettuce from the garden tastes versus the store-bought stuff we rely on over the winter. And the garden is starting to pump out lettuce.

Every year I start a few lettuce seedlings indoors, then transplant them into the garden in early spring when the ground is workable. That gives us a head-start on our spring crop, which we’re harvesting now.

I also seed directly into the garden every two weeks or so once the soil is workable and up until the weather gets really hot. That gives us a continuous supply of the salad green. Last year I learned a cool tip that I plan to implement this year. I’ve always been disappointed with lettuce seeded into the garden in mid summer. Very few of the seeds germinate! I’ve since learned why: lettuce doesn’t germinate when it gets too hot. As a result, I read that you can start seeds indoors (where it’s presumably a bit cooler )in mid-summer, then transplant those seedlings into the garden. At any rate, I’m going to try it this year! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sorrel, Flower Bed
Raspberry Dressing Ramex (sorrel) in the flower bed.
Last year I bought a planter that included Raspberry Dressing Ramex. I discovered that Ramex, a sorrel, is a salad green and is also perennial. At the end of the season I transplanted it into the garden, and it did indeed come back this spring. However, Phil and I discovered that we don’t care for sorrel in a salad. It’s a little tough. So, I just moved it into my flower bed, where I think it looks great (see photo at left).

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