Saturday, July 7, 2007

Cunning and Confounding - Coriander

(Image: Public Domain via Wikipedia)

Mother knows best. She warned me several days ago that the cilantro was going to bolt. I didn't believe her; I had only transplanted the leggy, bedraggled, 8-inch seedlings a few weeks before. I didn't even think they would make it.

They made it alright, but I didn’t make it to my mother’s garden in time. I was crushed. All, however, was not lost. I would still enjoy the cilantro’s highly-prized roots, which are never, ever left attached to the bunches for sale at my local markets. So I made my way through the thicket of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes, to where I’d planted the cilantro, to where I thought I’d planted the cilantro. The cilantro was not to be found. Every parsley, tarragon, oregano and basil plant was accounted for, but not the cilantro. I just stood there and stared at the haze of green bouncing in the breeze until my eyes hurt from squinting and the sun baked the bridge of my nose.

“The cilantro’s gone,” I said to my mother as I picked my way out of the garden.

“No, it’s not,” my mother replied emphatically. “It’s right there.” She pointed directly at the mound of delicate, tangled stems and feathery leaves holding clusters of lacy white blossoms, tinged with the faintest, tiniest pink seeds. “I told you it was going to bolt.”

Mother does know best, and so do most of you. Just because I didn’t know what I was looking at, the magical, floral transformation of what’s commonly called cilantro, didn’t mean that you didn’t. (I would have guessed anise.) Non-bloggers, RenĂ© (Anonymous/NWgardener) and Jennifer, and Sra of When My Soup Came Alive were the first three readers to correctly identify the photos as coriander. Winners, please contact me at confident_cook AT yahoo DOT com so I can arrange to send out your cookbooks. Many thanks to all who participated. It was a lot of fun. The next time I run a little contest like this, I will work harder to present a greater challenge for you. Mother will always know best, but now I know better.

Recipe (being tested right now) coming up in next post. Please stay tuned!


Lydia said...

Well, Susan, my cilantro bolted, too! I just harvest the seeds, let them dry a bit, and promise to pay more attention to the plant next year!

Cynthia said...

I guess if it didnlt look like the way I usually see in the supermarket I might not have recognised it growing either.

Ellen said...

Hi Susan,

What does it mean when your cilantro has bolted? I think mine has too, but I don't know what it looks like. I planted a garden for the first time this year, including cilantro. It was so pretty and I loved how it looked that I forgot to pick it and eat it! Now I don't know what to do. Would love some advice. If you have a moment, I would so appreciate it if you would email me via my blog (see link).

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Just shows me!
When it bolts it really goes.

Nora B. said...

Hi Susan, I think that you are lucky to be able to see the blossoms because I think that they are so pretty and also very lucky to have a mom who can still teach you something new. I still have a lot to learn from my mom.
p/s: Thanks again for organising this contest, it was lots of fun.

Sandeepa said...

My cilantro/corriander seeds just refuse to sprout. I did what some blog friends suggested, soaked them before sowing them in ground. But no, nothing happened.
Can you tell me what you did, please, pretty please ?

christine (myplateoryours) said...

The nice thing about all that bolting cilantro is that it will reseed and come back up next season. I think it tastes more soapy once it blooms, but the seeds are good. Made a nice cilantro lime vinaigrette last night for grilled squash, corn and cabbage -- used both the leaves and the ground seed with lime juice, oil and salt. It was really great. Wish I could claim credit for it, but a chef friend turned me on to it.

Susan said...

Lydia - Cilantro can practically bolt right before your eyes. It's especially speedy in the heat.
Cynthia - It really is an entirely different looking plant.
Welcome, Ellen! I left a detailed comment on your blog w/ the answer. Thanks for visiting!
Tanna - Some gardeners try pinching back the floral growth, but unlike basil, it has a mind of its own.
Nora - I'm glad you had fun; I did, too. The flowers are very dainty and pretty. I do feel lucky that my mother and I share a love of gardening.
Sandeepa - I bought the plants already started from a garden center, but I will email you the finer points on tricky cilantro germination.
Christine - Lime and cilantro are a classic combo. I like the idea of grinding seed into the vinaigrette.

Meghan said...

With my first house came my first garden this year. I planted the cilantro...and sure enough it did "bolt" as you describe it here.

I cut it back thinking it would grow again.... its dead. (sad but true)

p.s. love the blog

Susan said...

Hi, Meghan. Welcome! It's not surprising that your cilantro is dead; it has a VERY short life cycle. Despite a few varieties that are slower to bolt, it still wants to flower and set seeds early. Cutting it back, alas, does not work. I would suggest starting w/ fresh seeds or plants fr/ a garden center, and planting them once every 3 weeks so you can be assured a continuous harvest through the season.

I'm glad you like my blog. Thanks for visiting!