"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, June 5, 2009

Harvesting and Preserving Cilantro


We were able to harvest 2 1/4 gallons of cilantro leaves (coriander) today. Cilantro is a delicious annual herb, member of the parsley family, and an essential ingredient in our diet that we use weekly in various salsa, quesadilla, and veggie burger recipes.


As we only allow a small area of our garden for this plant, if lucky, we are able to get three good cuttings that provide us with around 6 frozen gallons. Surprisingly, both cilantro and basil freeze very well. After cutting the leaves, preferably in the early morning while they are freshest, we mix them with a small amount of olive oil... just enough to coat the leaves. They are then packed into freezer bags and frozen for later use. The olive oil makes it really easy to separate the frozen leaves and also adds an extra flavor to the mix.


This works marvelously with both cilantro and basil, we may also try using olive oil on our frozen kale this year. Frozen basil does lose it's color but the essence remains. The trick is to use it quickly as it becomes quite limp and hard to work with once it begins to thaw. In our house basil is used for various tomato dishes and is especially good in homemade pizza sauce and on bruschetta. Frozen kale goes great in a potato and kale soup that we make in the winter when greens are hard to come by... so good.

44 comments:

SuburbanGardener said...

Mike, Hi. Wanted to ask a few questions. Wanted to ask how you store your veggies. You mention freezing. How many freezers do you need/have? Is freezing your main storage, or do you can mostly? Also was curious about the peppers and tomato cages. How tall do your peppers get? Makes me think we should add cages to our peppers, but that comes as a surprise. Thanks in advance for the help. Your garden rocks!!
SG

Silke said...

Ahhhh cilantro! We eat it almost daily as it is a staple ingredient in our salads. We've only grown it once because we didn't know how to preserve the extra. Your idea with the olive is GREAT! I think next year, we'll have to grow some again. Yours looks amazing!! :) Silke

Mr. H said...

SuburbanGardener,

We have two freezers that we mostly use for berries, cilantro, basil, kale and even extra apple and rhubarb sauce that has not been canned. There are usually some whole frozen tomatoes and tomatillos in the freezer as well. The freezers are usually filled to the point of it being ridiculous come fall.

We also dry many of the fruits, mushrooms, and tomatoes... dried tomatoes are great on a salad, and unaffordable if you have to buy them.

The bulk of our storage (perhaps 70%) is in our basement root cellar that stays around 35-50°most of the year. Our house is very old and has a deep basement with thick concrete walls. We have an old well down there that helps to keep it cold and humid all year... it's kind of like a mini dungeon, an occasional bat included.

We keep large amounts of potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, celery, apples, cabbage, kohlrabi, endive and even fresh grapes down there. Matter of fact we still have perfectly good carrots, potatoes and a few beets left from last fall.

Some carrots, parsnips, and all of our sunchokes are also over wintered in the ground after being covered with extra dirt. I may experiment with leaving a few potatoes in the ground this year.

Our onions, garlic, squash, and fresh green tomatoes that are still ripening are kept upstairs where it is warm and dry.

With any luck we will be canning lots of tomatoes, apples, and pears this fall... all for sauce.

Our tomatoes are mostly indeterminate, they grow until frost, and definitely need the five foot tall field fencing cages as support.

Peppers can be supported by being tied to one stake next to them. The little cages are found at garage sales every so often and come in handy for these plants. Our peppers and eggplants do not get really big and strong in such a short season, the peppers get anywhere from 2-3' tall. So when loaded with fruit they tend to easily fall over... especially if the wind picks up. Just watch your pepper plants and if they start to lean tie them to a stake.

It sounds like a lot of food but keep in mind we are mostly vegetarian and have weaned ourselves from the grocery store. It never ceases to amaze me how much food we have to grow to be self supportive.

Happy gardening!

Mr. H said...

Silke!

Thanks for your response on epazote. I will have to get brave and try it. It's such a strange plant.

Isn't cilantro great, perhaps my favorite herb after basil. The olive oil really works wonders when it comes to freezing leaves, of course fresh cilantro will always be best.

Now why haven't I tried it in a salad, what a great idea.

AccidentalHW said...

That's interesting. Around here, the lore is that you can't preserve cilantro in any way. I had a bunch this year so I froze some and dehydrated a bit too, anyway, although everyone said it would lose all its flavor. So much for local lore!

Eva said...

We love cilantro too! This year is my first time trying to grow it. I'm not having much luck, think maybe the full sun it receives is too much? I've sowed over 20 seeds, and currently have 4 plants left. They are small, and turning yellow. I didn't know you could freeze it either!! That's exciting, I was always under the impression (not sure why) that it would get slimy and icky after freezing.

Mr. H said...

AccidentalHW,

We use it frozen all the time, the flavor is fully retained as far as I can tell. I have never tried it dehydrated, maybe we will do so this year... just to see.

Mr. H said...

Eva,

We usually start our first batch in flats and then transplant them to the garden. We do direct seed it after that and have never had any issues. Cilantro does prefer a cool, rich, moist soil. Ours is planted in partial sun, but as far as I know cilantro does well in full sun also.

The trick to frozen greens like cilantro and basil is to to use them immediatly after removing from the freezer. They will get limp and slimy otherwise. We chop cilantro up frozen and add it to homemade salsa and other recipes. The flavor is what we are after not so much the texture.

granny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chance said...

What a great tip with the olive oil - thanks! We mostly use cilantro in soups and such, and I freeze it in cupcake molds in one cup increments. Your cilantro looks fabulous and I am going to try it your way this year. Thanks again for the tip.

granny said...

Im learning so much here!thankyou Mr H.Sorry about the deleted comment!(that was me)my computer wasnt behaving last night!!You are both living our dream,but we are getting there,slowly but surely :0)

Mr. H said...

Hello Chance,

Cilantro goes great in soups, we use it that way often. You won't need much oil, just enough to coat the leaves. It make seperating or cutting the frozen cilantro a breeze.

Mike

Mr. H said...

Hi Granny,

I understand the computer issues... I am plagued with them. I'm glad you enjoy the blog, and as far as living a dream it looks like you are well on the way. I really enjoy your blog also... love the grand kids.

Kalianne@theBowerbird'sNest said...

Thanks for this great tip! I'll definitely try it when summer arrives in our part of the world. Coriander, as we refer to it in Australia, is one of my favorite fresh herbs!
Happy gardening...
Kalianne

Mr. H said...

Hello Kalianne@theBowerbird'sNest,

Thanks for stopping buy. I am a little surprised at how many people appreciate coriander. I did not realize what a popular herb it was. Hopefully winter will pass quickly in Australia and fresh spring coriander will be waiting to greet you.

Mike

Denise said...

Inspiring post, thanks! My two little cilantro plants just went straight to seed, so I'm envious of your gallons. I'm also curious about your processing time. And hooray for potato-kale soup, on my menu this week---kale is one thing I do have gallons of.

Mr. H said...

Hi Denise,

Cilantro seems to do well in really rich soil and it likes the sun, but the heat will make it bolt quickly. We plant our transplants well before the last frost... but not too early.

It took us about 30 minutes to cut, oil, and freeze the cilantro. I try to cut it while it is dry and clean. We are lucky that there is always a good breeze going through our gardens so that the water splattered dirt turns to dust and is often blown off the greens... no washing/cleaning necessary, this saves a bunch of time.

Mike

Chiot's Run said...

That's interesting. I'll have to give this a try this year. I usually chop mine finely and mix with olive oil and add to a jar. Then I simply remove from the freezer a an hour before I want some herbs, scoop out what I need and back into the freezer it goes. This sound very easy though, thanks for the tip.

Mr. H said...

Susy,

I will have to try freezing some in a jar like that. That might be a really great way of freezing a mixture of herbs. Thanks for the idea. :)

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

How odd. I was taking a break from housework, following links from a friend's blog and idly wondering what the heck I was going to do with the huge bag of cilantro I was gifted with yesterday. There was no way I'd use it before it went bad.

Now I know. Thanks.

Mr. H said...

Hello Teresa,

That's great, a bag of frozen cilantro will come in very handy for later cooking adventures. We seem to use it in everything.

Thanks for stopping by,

Mike

Barb and Steve said...

e strying to find out more about cilantro. I look forward to reading all your posts. Thanks!
Check out our blog if you get the chance. We are converting an Amish barn on 12 acres to our future home.
http://the-big-red-barn-blog.blogspot.com/
Barb

chevy said...

Thanks for the info on freezing cilantro, I just went out to my garden and I have a self seeded crop from this summer, (fall here) I am going to freeze it today. For those who love basil, I make mine into pesto, then freeze it in ice cube trays, I use about 2 cubes per batch of spaggetti sauce and it is as good as fresh.

Mr. H. said...

Chevy,

What a great way to preserve basil. I will keep that in mind for next season. I can't wait to try it...thanks so much.

6512 and growing said...

I'm a year late to this post, but grateful as we have more cilantro than we can use and need a way to preserve it.
Thanks!

Mr. H. said...

6512 and growing - I hope it works out for you and congrats on all the cilantro.:)

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I just love it when I do a search for information, like, "preserving cilantro", and a blog comes up with what I need. I always choose the blogs first.

I don't have to plant cilantro anymore, because, not knowing how to preserve it, I just let it go to seed, and have a nice crop each year. Now that I finally took the initiative to find out, I'll have to leave some to go to seed for next year's crop.

I'll have to check to see if you are still blogging.

Mr. H. said...

Sue - Isn't the internet great. I think you will like preserving cilantro in this manner, it won't look like fresh cilantro but does retain the nice flavor. Thanks for stopping by.:)

Miss Jerri said...

Great to find this blog! Even though it is the week of Thanksgiving, I have a nice little crop of self-seeded cilantro. As a Mexican food aficionado (I lived in Mexico a couple years), I am routinely disappointed with the cilantro I find out of season in the supermarkets where I live. I'm excited to try this out!

Mr. H. said...

Miss Jerri - Hope you get a chance to try this, let me know what you think if you do.:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, I have a lot of cilantro from self seeding from last year. I made 2 bags this morning.
I also have so many arugula, any suggestions? CT gardener

Mr. H. said...

CT gardener - Our arugula is coming on strong as well, I would suppose that you could freeze arugula in a similar manner to be used in soups and other such dishes at a later date. Enjoy that cilantro.

Lisa said...

I live in Alabama where it can get very hot, when should I plant herbs?? This blog has been very helpful . At our farm we teach children the joys a planting a garden to see where their food comes from and how rewarding and healthy it is for them to do it! Thanks Lisa

Mr. H. said...

In the early spring, before it is too warm out, is an excellent time to plant herbs.

laladyblog said...

Fantastic post! I'm all about the ice cube trays-o-herbs but I switch it up and just rough chop basil, mix with a little olive oil and put it in a freezer-safe container. Sometimes I like finely minced herbs for soups and sauces but like rough chopped herbs for salads. Variety is the spice of life and what not...

Anonymous said...

With most of my herbs that I dry, I simply put the leaves in a brown paper lunch bag and put it in the crisper in my refrigerator for about 4 weeks and I have perfectly dried herb leaves! They retain their flavor so much better!

Wayne Lindsay said...

I live in Australia as well and I have just harvested a heap of coriander and thought I would jump online and find the best way to keep it. I visited another couple of pages and they all said that you CAN'T freeze coriander without it losing it's flavour. Thanks for your advice re coating it with olive oil. I am going to try that right now !

Cheers - Wayne from Brisbane

Wayne Lindsay said...

Further to my last post, I mainly use coriander (cilantro) for cooking asian meals. Because of this, I not only chop up the leaves, but also the stalks and roots. These provide a lot more of the coriander flavour than the leaves do. I learnt this from a well known Thai chef. Good to know if you are using it in asian cooking. Also, it goes extremely well with fresh lime juice.

Wayne Lindsay said...

Further to my last post, I mainly use coriander (cilantro) for cooking asian meals. Because of this, I not only chop up the leaves, but also the stalks and roots. These provide a lot more of the coriander flavour than the leaves do. I learnt this from a well known Thai chef. Good to know if you are using it in asian cooking. Also, it goes extremely well with fresh lime juice.

Linda said...

Do you WASH your herbs and greens before tossing them with oil and freezing?

I learned the hard way to Not wash my Blueberries first. So I am wondering when these get washed because after defrosting they might be too limp?

Linda said...

Also, do you need to squeeze the air out or is loose preferable? Thank you!

Mr. H. said...

Linda - We try not to wash our greens before freezing and if we have to I make sure to dry them out before they get mixed with oil and go into the freezer bags. Yes, we do squeeze the air out of the bags as the less air there is the longer the frozen food keeps.

Anonymous said...

HI,
Do you have a reciepe for cilantro fresh but I want to save it for the winter.
Thanks.
Mary Grace.

Mr. H. said...

Mary Grace - At this point other than fresh from the garden the only way we use/preserve cilantro is by freezing it.

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