May 2, 2012

Food in the Front Yard Project: Cilantro (Plus a mango and corn salsa recipe!)

I realize this is a polarizing subject. And I have to tell you: I am squarely on the "Cilantro is the greatest!" side of the debate.

I love cilantro (Although those of you who feel otherwise are in pretty decent company, it must be said). To me, it tastes bright and green and fresh, and I was so happy to see that, not long after we planted our front-yard garden, it was already time to harvest some.

The trick in growing cilantro seems to be keeping the plant from "bolting"/going to seed. You can do that by trying to prevent the soil from getting too warm - keeping plants close together and using mulch helps - and by harvesting regularly. That part is easy: just cut the stems with nice, sharp scissors, leaving several inches (and some leaves) at the base to keep growing.

Once the plant flowers, the leaves lose their flavor. But! Collect and dry the seeds and you'll have a stash of grown-at-home coriander. Sounds good, right?

We used our first bunch of fresh cilantro in a batch of mango and corn salsa.

To make it yourself, round up:

- 1 large handful of cilantro, chopped
- 4 medium tomatoes, diced (Can I tell you the truth? I don't really like tomatoes. I chose brown ones for this recipe because I thought they were sort of beautiful, not because of any flavor preference.)
- 1 cup corn (drained if you're using a can)
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1 mango, peeled and diced
- 4 jalapeƱo peppers, diced (I remove the seeds and ribs to control the heat)
- The juice of 1 lemon

Mix everything well. Add salt and pepper to taste, then let the salsa sit covered in the fridge for at least an hour to break down a bit before serving.

P.S. Although I put our salsa in canning jars (pretty!), it wasn't actually preserved and it's not shelf stable. We took ours to a party and ate it up the same day.

To read more about how we planned and planted our front yard garden, start with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
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