Late Autumn Cilantro

This week has been strange, weather-wise. It started out weirdly warm for December with temperatures in the 60s, and (according to our humidifier) inside the house the humidity level has been hovering in the 60s as well. That is incredibly unusual for the winter — we have very dry heat in our house, and usually it's a struggle to keep the humidity level in the 40s with the humidifier running all day. It hasn't been on at all this week.

We opened up all the the cold frames and greenhouse tunnels while it was warm to get some fresh air circulating and to let in the rain of the last two days. They are closed up again now, though, because the temps are falling steadily, and there might be a little snow by morning.

As strange as the weather this fall has been, it is apparently perfect for cilantro. The plants we grew from seed sown back in August are enormous now — bushy and probably about three feet high. Their stems are very thick. The best part, though, is that they haven't flowered at all. That's not good if you want it to go to seed and have coriander, but in the past we've had a lot of trouble keeping our summer plants leafy. Once it flowers, the leaves really thin out, and it's a big pain to harvest a useful amount of them for salsa, etc. This year has been the opposite for us: no flowers or seed, and piles of leafy goodness. Lots of Mexican and Indian treats for us! It's also excellent as a surprise salad ingredient.

Because it has outlived (by a couple months) any other cilantro we've ever grown, we have learned that, like many other plants, it can show off some pretty fall colors. Here's some normal, green, summery cilantro:

And here is some autumn cilantro:

I wish I had put this on a plate for a more neutral background. The wood tone makes it a little hard to see that the golden color of the leaf fades out to orange and red at the tips of the leaves. I love the way the green veins look running up through the stems.

We had several bits that looked like this — they must have been nipped by the cold somehow. Most of the cilantro is still fresh and green, but I kind of wish more of it turned color. If it still tasted good (and not too dry and crispy), think how pretty it would be in recipes and salads. 


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