GROWING CILANTRO AND CORIANDER OUTDOORS

Coriander is easy to grow and is best used fresh, and therefore is a very good choice for growing your own kitchen herbs. Especially if you like cooking, Asian or Latin food. Coriander finds several uses because both the leaves and seeds are used as food. The leaves of coriander are, called cilantro, can be chopped and used for garnishing or used while cooking in a variety of dishes including, rice, soups, salsa, and more.

To grow coriander, you need to provide the plant with a lot of sunshine as is the case usually when growing kitchen herbs though when the sun is at its peak; it prefers some shade. If the plant is not cared for well, it very often does not grow rich foliage and instead of flowers and produces seeds. So, if you are growing coriander for its leaves, you should keep the conditions right for its growth.

Coriander can be grown directly from its seeds by sowing them in the soil.

Cilantro is really easy to grow, fast growing, and does not require a lot of work. 

Growing Cilantro and Coriander in The Garden

Cilantro was one of the first herbs/spices grown by the early colonists in America. Growing a few feet of Cilantro in the Spring, and areas with milder winters as a fall and winter crop will provide plenty to eat, dry for later use and/or to let go to seed in hot weather to use as Coriander spice.

Cilantro As A Companion Plant

If you are a believer in companion planting Cilantro is said to:

  • be a good companion to anise, tomatoes, and peppers
  • be a bad companion plant for fennel
  • repel aphids, Colorado potato beetle, and spider mites
  • attracts bees when in bloom

When to Plant Cilantro

When to plant cilantro depends on the general climate condition in which you live and the specific average hardiness frost dates.  The general strategies vary somewhat depending upon whether you live in northern or southern regions of the United States.

In The Northern

Plant cilantro a two or three weeks before the last frost. To have a steady harvest throughout the summer, plant cilantro every couple of weeks until late autumn.

In the South

Plant in the beginning in early autumn to have a winter (until a killing frost sets in) and two or three weeks before the last frost for spring harvest.

Days to maturity

Cilantro takes about 30 to 40 days from planting to harvest as green herbs and 40 to 50 days for the seeds to be ready for harvesting as coriander.

WHAT ARE HERBS?

Herbs are one of the fascinating plant species on the planet. Humans have grown herbs for millennia and eaten herbs from the very beginning of time. They have added to our lives in several different ways. The humble little plants have been utilized in the following areas: flavoring food, medicinal remedies, fragrances, dyes, landscaping, pest control, and industrial uses. In recent years growing herbs has experienced a giant leap in popularity. One major factor is that they provide an attractive method of entry into the gardening fraternity because they are so easy to grow.

There are many plants that are included in the herb family. This causes a little bit of a challenge in defining members of the family. The strict botanist school definition of an herb is that it is a plant that does not form woody tissue. Ergo the name herbaceous to describe such a plant. Practical herb gardeners are a little more liberal in their definition of herbs and include plants with flowers, leaves, roots, stems, or fruits that provide any of the manifestations ascribed to herb plants. These qualities include ornamental, aromatic, medicinal, culinary, and household uses. Many plants with woody stems are included in the definition of herbs. Cultivated types (cultivators) such as thyme, lavender, and rosemary along with vines, trees, and shrubs are in there. Many cultivators are included in the legion of herb plants on the market today.

Under the right conditions, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. They can do well in a wide range of growing conditions and soils, but the key factor is drainage. Herb plants do not like “wet feet,” and they must be planted in well-drained soil, or they will not live. Richer soils will cause   the plants to grow larger stems and roots rather than the oils which produce the desired flavors and aromas. When planning an herb garden, consider the native origins of the herbs to be included in the garden. Herbs originally from the Mediterranean Sea area will vary in their requirements from East Asia.

Annual Herbs

Annuals herbs are plants which go through their whole life cycle from seed to flower, and again to seed in one growing season.  Once this happens, the plant dies.  If you collect seeds, you can replant in the same year (e.g., spring and fall), or save and replant the following year. Common annual herbs are:

  1. Basil
  2. Cilantro
  3. Chervil
  4. Summer Savory

Biennials Herbs

Biennials are plants which require two years to complete their life cycle.  The top of the herb may die, but the herb will overwinter with proper protection in most areas, here are a few:

  1. Dill (this herb is a biennial but is normally grown as an annual.
  2. Parsley (often grown as an annual)
  3. Sage (hardy for longer in zones 5-8)
  4. Stevia

Perennials Herbs

Perennials herbs, if well cared for, can last for years in the correct climate conditions.  This makes them an excellent investment in both time and money. Of course, you may end up with more of them than you could possibly eat, which is the case with all the large rosemary bushes in my landscape. We use what we want, and the rest look good and attract pollinators.

In cooler climates, the plant to may die back in the winter  and will return in the following spring; assuming cold temperature do not exceed their tolerances.  Perennials herbs will continue growing through the winter if you live in some of the more temperate zones. Some common perennial herbs are:

  1. Bay leaves
  2. Chives
  3. Fennel
  4. Lavender
  5. Marjoram
  6. Mint
  7. Oregano
  8. Rosemary
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Winter Savory

Related References

AN INTRODUCTION TO CILANTRO AND CORIANDER

Cilantro (also known as “Chinese parsley,“ “Coriander leaf” or “fresh coriander”) refers to the fresh leaf and Coriander which is the name for the seeds are parts of the same plant.

We tend to think of the leaves as “herbs” and the seeds and roots as “spices.” However, in much of the world, the entire plant, leaves, roots, and seeds, are known as Coriander.

Cilantro/coriander is an annual herb with feathery leaves and white umbrella flower heads, which means its entire life cycle, from planting, to maturity, to the end of its life, occurs in a single growing season. In other words, annual herbs must be started with new seedlings, or new seeds planted, every year.

Coriander (Cilantro) can be grown for both leaves and seeds. Varieties have been bred to be better at producing one or the other, so the variety you choose is important. A seed variety will produce seed quicker than a leaf variety, but once a plant ‘runs to seed’ it will stop leaf production. If you want coriander leaves for your cooking, this means you will have a shorter picking time. All varieties will eventually produce seed, but the leaf varieties will hold off for longer.

‘Calypso’ which is slow to bolt or ‘Cruiser’ which is bolt-resistant are the generally considered the best for herb production with an excellent ‘cut and come again’ habit,  while ‘Santo’ will produce larger flower heads, thereby producing more seed, and will run to seed more quickly. Whichever variety you, make sure to check if the seeds you are using are ‘seed’ or ‘leaf’ varieties and choose the type which best fits the way your family eats.

Bring your meals to life

Many ethics foods ranging from Latin American to Asian use cilantro and coriander in their daily and festive food. So, there is a wealth of recipe available across many cultures with which to experiment with your garden crop of cilantro and coriander.

How to use cilantro and coriander in the kitchen

As you may have gathered, cilantro is a feature in our favorite meals from around the world. The reason that recipes from all cultures use this herb is that the entire plant is edible.

The seeds, roots, stems, and leaves each have distinct flavors and uses.

Using cilantro (leaves, foliage, and stems)

  • Salads (use leaves)
  • Stews and sauces (use leaves)
  • Soups (use stems and/or leaves)

Using coriander (seeds)

  • Sauces (curries, etc.)
  • Flavoring meat

Using cilantro (Root)

  • Asian seasoning pastes with garlic, salt and green peppercorns
  • Cilantro roots are often combined vegetable and roots like carrots, scallion, tomato paste, coconut milk, citrus, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, Chile peppers
  • Cilantro roots are commonly used meats like chicken, lamb, and goat.

Cilantro And Food Culture Combinations

Cilantro and coriander (seeds) are used in a number of food cuisines including:

  • Chinese Cuisine
    • Star anise, coriander (seeds), fennel, garlic ginger, and pepper
  • Indian Cuisine
    • Cayenne, cardamom, coriander (seeds), cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, saffron, and turmeric
  • Mexico
    • Cilantro (herb, not seeds), cumin, garlic, and oregano
  • Thai Cuisine
    • Anis, basil, coriander (seeds), lemongrass, and mint

Related References

HOW TO DRY CILANTRO AND CORIANDER

Cilantro Leaf

while the most common way to use cilantro, at least in the South and in Latin cuisines, is the use of fresh leaves there are other ways to use cilantro or the seeds (coriander). Cilantro can be dried or frozen or in the case of short-term use refrigerated. Coriander seeds necessarily are used dry, but they can be ground into a powder and uses a spice.

Raw Organic Dry Green Cilantro in a Bowl

Methods of Drying Cilantro Leaves

Drying your Cilantro harvest is easy to do at home and requires no special equipment.  However, you want to be sure to harvester cilantro before the plant begins to bolt for best results. Once the cilantro bolts the leaves change as does the flavor and the texture of the leaves. If your cilantro escapes from you, as mine sometimes does, and has started to flower you might as well let it go ahead and go to seed so you can use the coriander. If you still want cilantro leaves, you should go ahead and succession plant a new crops or if the weather is exceedingly hot consider growing your cilantro indoors in pots or as microgreens.

Traditional Method

Although Cilantro seeds (Coriander) are used most often in the large variety of dishes, dried Cilantro has its place in soups, sauces, and stews.

Equipment Required:

  • Garden or Kitchen shears
  • Basket or another container suitable for Cilantro sprigs
  • Salad Spinner or two clean kitchen towels
  • Rubber Bands
  • Clothes Drying Rack, Dry attic or porch
  • Small Brown Paper Bags (optional)

Method:

  • Gather your Cilantro harvest in the morning hours after the sun has dried away the dew of the night.
  • Gather the sprigs into small, loose bundles, and bind the stems together with rubber bands to keep them together as they dry. Be sure to space the branches to allow for good air circulation.
  • If using paper bags, cover each bundle and cut small slits the sides to allow for air flow around the Cilantro. These protective paper bags keep dust off of the Cilantro as it dries and stops the Cilantro becoming sunlight bleached.  Ensure that enough air flows through the paper bags to keep your Cilantro from molding.  Occasionally inspect your Cilantro, and, if necessary either cut more holes in the paper bags or remove the Cilantro from the paper bags.  Moisture may build up inside the paper bag, especially if the sun hits it, allowing fungus and mildew to form. Discard any molded leaves or bunches.
  • Hang your Cilantro upside down (leaf ends down) in a warm, dry place such as an attic, pantry, a disused room, or protected porch until the leaves are dry and brittle to the touch, which should take about two weeks.
  • Gather the dried bundles and place on a sheet of wax paper.
  • Crumble the dried leaves onto the wax paper and separate all of the tough stems.
  • Pour the Cilantro into a clean, airtight jar, Ziplock freezer bag, or a vacuum sealer pouch and seal tightly.

Storage:

Airtight jars or pouches can be stored Cilantro in a dry, dark place like your pantry, root cellar, or cupboard.

Uses:

Dried Cilantro and Cilantro can be used in sauces, gravies, dressings, vinaigrettes, chutneys, and a large variety of vegetable dishes.

Oven Drying Cilantro

Cilantro can be dried in the oven at the lowest temperature, or, if you have a gas stove with a pilot light using only the pilot light as the heat source, but this may take a little longer. Spread the cilantro evenly in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Special Note: If using a cookie sheet to dry the Cilantros, place the Cilantros to be dried on parchment paper to avoid direct contact with the metal trays.  Metal contact darkens the color of the Cilantro being dried, causing the Cilantro to lose its bright green color.

Equipment Required:

  • Salad Spinner or two clean kitchen towels
  • Kitchen shears or good chopping knife
  • Chopping board or block
  • Parchment Paper
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Oven

Directions:

  • Wash and gently spin dry the fresh Cilantro sprigs.
  • Pick out the discolored leaves and woody stems.
  • Using your ovens lowest temperature setting and preheat the oven.
  • Dice the cilantro into 1/4″ pieces onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or spread the whole leaves in a thin layer on the paper.
  • Place in oven on evenly spaced racks for two to four hours or until Cilantro crumbles easily rubbed between your fingers. Your actual drying times vary a little from one day to the next.
  • Check the drying progress after about 30 minutes, and then at 15-minute intervals until the leaves feel dry and flaky. Remove from the oven to cool.
  • Shape the parchment paper into a funnel and place the smallest end over the mouth of a clean, completely dry jar or a vacuum sealer pouch and seal tightly.
Electric Food Dehydrator
Electric Food Dehydrator

Drying Cilantro In A dehydrator

Soak your Cilantro herbs in a bowl of water. Wash and gently spin dry the fresh Cilantro sprigs. Next, remove the stems of the leaves. Some people prefer to dry their herbs without removing the stems; it is a matter of personal preference.
Layout the cleaned leaves on dehydrator trays in a single layer–they can touch, but not overlapping. They will not stick together when they are dried.
You should process these in your favorite dehydrator at 110° for approximately 1 to 3 hours. Cilantro leaves dry fairly quickly, so, will want to check then frequently. You’ll know they are done when the leaves are crisp and crumble between your fingers.

Dry Coriander Seeds
Dry Coriander Seeds

Dried Coriander Sееdѕ

  • Clip the seed heads from the mature Coriander plant as soon as you notice that the flower heads are starting to set seeds. Sееdѕ usually mature rather quickly, so act quickly.
  • Gather the clipped seed heads into loose bundles and secure with a rubber band.
  • Cover the seed pod bundles with paper bags and hang upside down in an airy, dry place to dry.  The seed should separate from the seed heads within a few weeks.
  • Shake the dried Cilantro paper bags to loosen any other seeds and pour onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper.
  • Remove the stems and any other debris to separate the seeds and pour into a small spice container for use in the kitchen or for planting in the Spring!
Dry Herbs and Spices On A Shelf
Dry Herbs and Spices On A Shelf

Storage:

  • Place jar or pouch in a dry, dark place such as your kitchen cabinet, pantry or even your freezer.
  • Dried Cilantro will last as long as any other dried Cilantro you buy—as long as two years.

Related References

Growing Epazote

I want to thank you for buying this book, ‘Growing Epazote – A Home Gardener’s Guide’ and I hope you will find it informative and useful.

Gardening is a pleasurable and enjoyable hobby. It is also one of those hobbies that require a lot of patience. However, the results are exquisite. It is one of the rare hobbies in which you need to deal with real living things and take care of them. Gardeners love their plants and consider them to be their friends.

Nowadays many gardeners, old and new, are looking out for certain plants and shrubs that were once considered to be weeds. While these plants held special places in various cultures, due to commercialization, their invasive nature and lack of information regarding them had deemed them as weeds. However, most of these plants and shrubs are not only beautiful, but they have various beneficial properties as well. Such a plant, which is often considered to be a weed, is epazote.

Epazote is an ancient plant that holds a significant place in Latin American culture. Nowadays, more and more people want to grow epazote thanks to its pungent but exciting flavor and its anti-flatulence properties. If you are one of these people, this book will help you grow epazote in no time. 

Epazote is quite easy to grow which is why even new and amateur gardeners won’t have any problems growing it. Read on to find out how to introduce this delicious herb into your garden right away!

I hope you will use the information provided in this book to make your home and garden greener and your food tastier.

Epazote – Understanding The Herb

Before moving on to growth and care tips regarding epazote, it is first necessary to understand the plant itself. This chapter will briefly explain the various properties, qualities and certain warnings regarding growing, using and consuming epazote.

Epazote is a commonly grown herb crop in the Yuma area. However, the percentage of growers who grow this crop is quite small. Not many people are aware of Epazote ‘s popularity and importance. Epazote is a leafy vegetable that is often used as an herb for its pungent flavor. It is either used raw or is often cooked along with various other ingredients. It is extremely pungent and resinous. It tastes a bit like fennel, anise or tarragon. However, the taste is much stronger. The fragrance is strong too and it is difficult to describe, as it does not match any other scent.

Epazote sounds like rather an exotic name. However, it is still better than various other names that this herb has. Some people call it goosefoot, pigweed, skunkweed or wormseed. These names are not random, as epazote comes from the Aztec words ‘epatl’ and ‘tzol.’ These two words taken together roughly translate to smelly animal. Other, far better names include Mexican. People rarely refer to it as Chenopodium ambrosioides either. As mentioned earlier, epazote holds a dear and special place in the Central American and Latin American culture. It is commonly used in Guatemalan and Central American cuisines.

As mentioned in the section above, epazote is extremely strong and pungent which is why people often consider it to be an acquired taste. Some people complain of it being too bitter with slight hints of lemon. Certain people tend to replace epazote with Mexican oregano, which is often found to be more palatable for fussy eaters. However, no herb or ingredient can replace epazote and its pungent but appetizing taste.

Different parts of the epazote have different flavors. However, only the leaves of the plant are fit for human consumption. Other parts can prove to be toxic and must be avoided. Young leaves of the plant are richer yet milder in flavor as compared to the older leaves. The flavor becomes more and more intense with age.

Epazote is suitable for tropical as well as sub-tropical climatic conditions. If grown properly it can grow over 3 feet. It is often discarded as a weed in places like Mexico and the USA. It is invasive and a rapid grower and it is possible that you may already have some in your garden, or a local park, though if you plan to consume epazote, it is recommended to plant a new one only for consumption. Do not use leaves from your park or any other public place.

Commercially Available Packets Of Herbs
Commercially Available Packets Of Herbs

Where to Find Epazote

While the main concern of this book is to help you grow epazote, it is always better to try some out before choosing to grow it. Epazote is commonly available in many Hispanic and Latin Markets. It is available in dry as well as fresh forms. If fresh epazote is not available, dry epazote can be used and is every bit as tasty. Dry epazote is available on various e-commerce sites.

Epazote in Mason Jar Filled With Water
Epazote in Mason Jar Filled With Water

Storing Epazote

Epazote is a hardy plant and thus storing it is easy. However, as it is an herb, it is perishable, and thus care must be taken to keep Epazote fresh. Whether you grow epazote or whether you buy fresh Epazote from the market, always take care of the leaves to make them last longer. You should store the fresh stems in a tumbler of fresh water. If you do not want to keep it out in the open, you can keep it wrapped in some moist paper towels and then keep them in the refrigerator. One stem of fresh epazote is about one teaspoon of dried epazote.  

Squash/Pumpkin Blossom Quesadillas
Squash/Pumpkin Blossom Quesadillas

Uses

Epazote has various uses, and thus many people want to grow it nowadays.

Traditionally, epazote has been used to flavor beans and for the carminative properties of epazote. It is often used to flavor other Mexican dishes, such as squash flower quesadillas, as well. For instance, epazote can be used to season soups, quesadillas, eggs, and potatoes, mole de olla and enchiladas.

You will be surprised to know that epazote has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Aztecs used it to flavor their cooking and for its various medicinal benefits.

Epazote can be used to treat hookworms, roundworms, amebic dysentery, small tapeworms, excess mucus, and asthma as well.

Externally, it can be used to treat insect bites and athlete’s foot. It also has insecticidal properties and can be used against mosquitoes and insect larvae.

Epazote is a strong laxative and has various laxative properties. With the help of these properties, it can stop the functioning of parasites and can halt their advancement in the intestines. It has been used as an essential oil since the nineteenth century in diluted and concentrated forms. In the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies started isolating and using it too.

People also use fresh epazote leaves to create wall hangings, floral decorations, etc. You can create wreaths, dried floral decorations, etc. Always be careful while using and handling dried leaves and seeds of epazote as they may irritate the skin. The seeds are known to cause various reactions including dermatitis etc. to people who are sensitive to spicy foods and spices.

Problems

Epazote, while delicious, is a risky condiment just like cinnamon. The risk can be minimized if you know how to use it. Some people believe that epazote’s taste is addictive. However, it is recommended to avoid epazote in large quantities. Only add a couple of leaves to your food to bring out its flavors. If you want to add dried leaves, then add according to the recipe. If you are not sure how to use epazote, you may need to talk to your Latin American friends.

Now you must be wondering where to find epazote, or you must be excited about growing it in your garden. Find out more about how to grow epazote in your garden, home or even in water in the following chapters.

Epazote In Raised Bed With Cilantro In The Background
Epazote In Raised Bed With Cilantro In The Background

Growing Epazote

Epazote is delicious as well as a beautiful plant that can make your garden look fresh and green and your foods are tastier. If you love the taste of epazote, it is best to grow it in your garden to ensure a steady supply.

Growing your epazote is simple. Epazote has large serrated leaves, and it also gives out flowers with tiny green balls. It is recommended to consume only the leaves of the plant. The plant is an annual, and its leaves can be used as an insecticide as well. If you crush the leaves and spread it on paths, it can make ants go away. Dry epazote can be used to get rid of ants as well. While only leaves are fit for human consumption, some people also like to add thin stems of leaves to their food. If you do decide to use the stems, pulverize them and let them cook for a long time.

All about Growing Epazote

Epazote grows well in all seasons if you live in a tropical or sub-tropical region. However, if you live in any other region then it is best to plant epazote in spring after the ‘dangerous’ frosts are long gone. Epazote needs slightly high temperature throughout the day. The temperature should reach at least 50 degrees. Any less and the growth will not be satisfactory. Always grow epazote in well-drained soil and full sunlight.

Seed Sowing Depth

Epazote seeds are small and thus should not be sown too deep. It is recommended to sow them at the surface of the soil. If you live in a windy zone, sow them at 1/16-inch depth. Always keep the soil warm and moist as it helps germination. As said in the last section, the temperature should be around 50 degrees. Epazote grows quickly and can be invasive and it is therefore recommended to allow the area some growing space. If you are not comfortable with the plant taking over your garden, only plant it in containers. This way you will be able to keep it under control.

When to Sow

For subtropical and tropical regions, you can sow epazote seeds throughout the year. For people who live in moderate zones, seeds can be sown in mid-spring when the temperatures are moderately high. Seeds germinate and grow in about 2-4 weeks. Some plants may even grow fully and be ready for harvest in a month or two. If you sow seeds over a stretched period, you will be able to ensure a long harvest. Sow the seeds throughout the spring.

As epazote is native to tropical regions, it grows the best in zones 2-7. It may even grow up to 2 to 4 feet. If you live in colder regions, it is recommended to grow it in containers so that you can bring it in if the temperature drops out of the blue.

Do not plant seeds in loamy soil. Always sow them where the roots will not be submerged in water for long. Sun is crucial for good flavor.

Seedlings Herbs In Starter Pots
Seedlings Herbs In Starter Pots

Sowing Indoors/Outdoors

Epazote grows the best outside, as it requires high temperature and direct sunlight. However, it can also be grown indoors in soil as well as water.

If you want to sow epazote indoors, do it in a place that receives ample sunlight. Windowsills and balconies are the best places for growing epazote. Seeds can be either started in growing medium, tissues or soil as well. Once the seedlings are ready, you can transfer them to containers containing growing media or soil. You can also transfer them to containers containing water. Epazote can grow well in water that is replenished with nutrients sparingly.

It is recommended to grow epazote for at least 4-6 weeks before moving them outside (if you want to). If you do not want to grow them outside at all, you may continue to grow them on windowsills.

While epazote can grow in water, their growth will not be as satisfactory as epazote grown outside in the soil.

Plant Height & Width

Epazote plants are medium length shrubs and can grow up to 4 feet. They have reddish stems with dark green, serrated leaves. They are about 9-10 inches wide.

Epazote Herb Plant Closeup
Epazote Herb Plant Closeup

Leaf Color/Description

Epazote leaves are bright, dark green and come out of the reddish stem of the mature plant. They have serrated edges, i.e., edges that look like teeth. They can also produce tiny flowers that grow right with the stems. These flowers then grow into seedpods.

Growth Habits

Epazotes are rapid growers and quickly gain their standard height of about 4ft. If you continuously harvest the tip of the plant after every couple of weeks, the plant will continue to grow and get more and bushy as well. This will also allow you to harvest the herb throughout the growing season.

Epazotes do the best in warm weather where the temperature does not drop below 50 very often. Do not water the plants too much and a dense watering thrice a week is sufficient. If it does not rain, you may increase the watering. Do not use a forceful stream or pressurized water to water the plant, as its stem is often quite delicate. Do not over water or it will lead to root-rot.

Pests & Diseases of Epazote

Epazote naturally has almost no pests as the texture of the plant and the scent of the leaves act as a deterrent to parasites and pests all over. Epazote can also help you to get rid of pests from other plants, as pests will leave any area where epazote grows.

Crushing and spreading leaves of epazote plant can help you get rid of annoying pests like ants etc. from your house.

How to store Epazote

The beauty of Epazote is that it can be used and stored in a variety of ways. To store your Epazote, you have essentially three options:

  • For short-term storage, you can either store it fresh in the refrigerator,
  • For long-term storage you can:
    • freeze the fresh herbs for later use, which can be accomplished in more than one way,
    • or dry the herbs and store in your cupboard, pantry or root cellar.

Drying Epazote

Some people say that it’s not worth drying Epazote because it loses its flavor when dried, but I disagree. While the flavor may not be as intense as a fresh bunch from the garden, there is still plenty of culinary use for dried Epazote in everyday cooking.

There are several ways of drying Epazote which include

  • Air dry/brown paper bag/solar
  • Food dehydrator
  • Oven Drying

Oven Drying

To oven dry your Epazote, preheat oven to 250-300 degrees F. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with baking spray to help with sticking. Strip the leaves off the stems of the Epazote and spread the leaves in one layer on the cookie sheet. Let, the leaves dry out in the oven for 20-30 minutes, check once. You just want the leaves to lose the fresh green look. Take them out of the oven and cool on the cookie sheet. Use a spatula to scrape off the cookie sheet, and slightly crumble the leaves. Put in an airtight jar and store with spices, use when needed! These will last as long as any other dried herb.

Hanging Air dried herbs
Hanging Air Dried Herbs

Air drying

To air dry your Epazote herbs,

  • Wash, the Epazote under cool, running water and dry it thoroughly, but gently, with a paper towel.
  • Gather the Epazote together and tie the stem ends together with a string for them to be used immediately.
  • Hang the Epazote bunch in a dry area until all the water evaporates from the leaves of the herb.
  • Place the bunch upside down in a paper bag. Tie the paper bag closed and poke several holes in the bag with the tip of a knife to allow for ventilation.
  • Hang the bag in a warm, dry area that is not in direct sunlight.

Open the bag and check the herbs every few days to see if the Epazote is sufficiently dry. The herb should feel crisp and crumble easily in your hand, with no areas of moisture. It should take about one to two weeks to properly dry your Epazote.

Tips:

  • Keeping the Epazote in a bag while it dries allows the leaves to drop into the bag rather than onto the floor or counter.
  • Store the dried Epazote in a sealed, airtight container.
  • Dried Epazote tastes best when added to cooked dishes as opposed to salsas or salads.
  • Select Epazote for drying that has fresh, healthy leaves; avoid Epazote with wilted leaves.
  • Store fresh Epazote until you are able to dry it by placing the stems in 1 inch of water and covering the plant with a plastic bag. Fresh Epazote should keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Herbs On Dehydrator Shelves
Herbs On Dehydrator Shelves

Drying with dehydrator

Soak your Epazote herbs in a bowl of water. After they have soaked for a few minutes, put the leaves in a salad spinner or large dish towel and give it a twirl. This helps to make the leaves as dry as possible.

Next, remove the stems of the herbs. Some people prefer to dry their herbs without removing the stems; it is a matter of personal preference. Once the leaves are completely dry, the stems will be minimal, so you decide what’s best. If you plan to grind the dried leaves into powder, the stems will not make a difference.

Once you’ve cleaned and dried the Epazote leaves, lay them on dehydrator trays in a single layer. It is okay to have the leaves touch. They will not stick together when they are dried.

You should process these in your favorite dehydrator at 110° for approximately 1 to 3 hours. They dry fairly quickly so keep an eye out. You’ll know they are done when the leaves are crisp and crumble between your fingers.

Open Storage Jar of Home Dried Epazote
Open Storage Jar of Home Dried Epazote

How to store dehydrated Epazote

To store dehydrated Epazote, place the dried Epazote in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dark, dry place for the best flavor and color.

Use the leaves within a year. Keep the leaves whole; they have a longer shelf life than ground herbs. For the best flavor crush or grind the leaves just before using.

Dried Epazote lasts as long as two years, and you don’t have to worry about freezer burn or other problems that occur when freezing food.

Freezing Epazote

If you have the freezer space or happen to have a second freezer as we did for many years, freezing is a good way to preserve Epazote, which, also, has the benefit of retaining more of the original flavor of Epazote then drying does.

There are three basic methods for freezing Epazote:

  • The Ice Cube Method
  • The Vacuum Sealer Method, and
  • The Cookie Sheet Method
Frozen cubes of herbs

Ice Cube Method

One way of freezing Epazote is to add the leaves or parts of leaves to ice cube trays in water or broth before freezing. This method is useful for adding small quantities to recipes, especially soup, stews, and casseroles.

Equipment Required: 

  • Salad Spinner or two clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife and cutting board 
  • Ice Cube Trays
  • measuring spoons

Ingredients

  • Entire leaf or hacked Epazote 
  • Fresh faucet water 
  • Pick through the fresh Epazote and dispose of damaged leaves. Spin drying or pat dry between two kitchen towels to remove as much moisture as possible. 
  • Strip off the leaves from the stem.
  • Dice the Epazote and add to ice cube trays.
  • Fill every compartment with leaves. 
  • Top off with filtered water or broth and place in the freezer. 
  • When the ice cubes have frozen, remove the Epazote cubes.
  • Store in water and air-proof freezer bag or container in your freezer. 

How to use cubes:

Vacuum Sealer Method

This method preserves more color and flavor by keeping the leaves sealed.

Equipment Required:

  • Vacuum sealer with proper bag material 
  • Salad Spinner or clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife 

Method: 

  • Wash and gently spin dry or gently pat dry with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture. 
  • Cut or remove the stems
  • Make a bag large enough to hold the Epazote leaves and allow some headspace between the herb and the seal. 
  • Label bag with herb name and date it. 
  • Place herbs into the bag. 
  • Vacuum seal the bag. 
  • Place flat in the freezer. After the bags have frozen solid, they can be put away upright or stacked to save space.

The Cookie Sheet Method

This method is in common use as most homes still do not have vacuum sealers in their kitchens. The cookie sheet method, also, preserves more color and flavor than drying Epazote.

Equipment Required:

  • Air tight freezer bag or plastic freezer containers
  • A cookie sheet or sheet pan which will fit on your freezer shelves
  • Salad Spinner or clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife

Method: 

  • Wash and gently spin dry or gently pat dry with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture. 
  • Cut or remove the stems
  • Label bag with herb name and date it. 
  • Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Spread the Epazote leaves on top of the parchment paper
  • Spread the leaves on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (not touching one another) in successive layers of parament paper and Epazote. For best results, at most three to five layers are recommended.
  • You can place a final layer of parchment paper and top with a second cookie sheet to gently press the leaves flat.
  • Let the leaves freeze a few hours or overnight.
  • Once the leaves are thoroughly frozen, quickly remove the leaves from the cookie sheet, and parchment paper, and pack the Epazote leaves loosely inside small freezer bags or freezer containers for long-term storage. 

How long can Epazote stored in the freezer?

If properly stored, it will maintain the best quality for about 4 to 6 months but will remain safe beyond that time.

Conclusion

Thank you for buying this book, and I hope you found it useful and interesting.

Gardening is a fun way to relax and enjoy the beautiful and often tasty results of your hard work. Epazote is a brilliant starter plant for everyone who is interested in growing herbs and is an amateur gardener. It is easy to grow and care for the plant and can be grown anywhere.

Epazote is quite potent, and only a small amount is needed to make your dish pop! This means you can grow a couple of plants, and they will last you throughout the season. If you are new to the taste of epazote, use it in various quantities to find one that suits and soothes your taste buds. Remember, it is always better to add less spice than more as it is possible to make up for less but removing more is almost impossible.

Once again thank you and good luck!

How to Grow Alfalfa Microgreens Indoors

growing microgreens
growing microgreens

Alfalfa greens are rich in a wide variety of nutrients including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Folate, Magnesium, Copper, Phosphorous, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Carotene, and Potassium among others.

Alfalfa has been used for decades across different cultures in the world to support good health and for medicinal purposes. For instance, it was used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve appetite and to alleviate digestive system disorders.

How to Grow Alfalfa Microgreens Indoors

Alfalfa microgreens are easy to grow. They can be grown all year round with peak seasons being during fall and spring. They tolerate a wide range of climates. Since alfalfa roots develop quickly and do not grow deep, you can grow them at home in pots, containers or trays.

The microgreens are propagated from seeds. Within 3-5 days of planting, the microgreens will have sprouted. Water them and ensure they have adequate light and they will be ready for harvesting within 10-14 days. After planting, maintenance includes weeding and pest control which can be achieved organically or using pesticides or herbicides.

Growing Alfalfa Indoors

Alfalfa microgreens are some of the easiest plants that you can grow indoors. Since they grow fast, you can repeatedly plant them for a continuous supply throughout the year. All you need is a surface for planting such as a tray or a pot, and adequate light – you can place the tray/pot near a window or use a gardening bulb during the winter season.


GROWING ALFALFA IN TRAYS

Step-by-step Guide to Growing alfalfa in trays

  • Find a shallow tray (1.5 – 2.5 inches deep).
  • Fill the tray with potting mix or soil up to a level of one-half inches.
  • Spread the soil/potting mix evenly to form a flat surface.
  • Scatter the alfalfa seeds evenly over the soil surface.
  • Sprinkle a thin layer or the soil/potting mix over the seeds.
  • Using a spray bottle, sprinkle water over the sowed seeds.
  • Place the tray near a window or near a source of light.
  • You may cover the tray with a piece of cloth or a perforated plastic bag to create a humid and warm environment that promotes germination while allowing adequate flow of air into the soil and the seeds.
  • Daily mist or sprinkle water on the germinating seeds.
  • Once the seeds begin to germinate, remove the cloth or paper bag that was covering the tray as the shoots grow up to 4 inches high.
  • Within 10-14 days the microgreens will be ready for harvesting. If you allow them to continue to grow, they will develop into seedlings and later into alfalfa plants.
  • To harvest the alfalfa microgreens, hold a section on the one hand and snip the stems just above the soil with scissors.
  • You may store the fresh microgreens in a jar in the refrigerator for about a week. Otherwise, you may dry them and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Growing microgreens in a pot
Growing microgreens in a pot

Growing alfalfa pots

The procedure for growing alfalfa in pots is similar to growing alfalfa in trays; only instead of using a shallow tray, you’ll use a shallow pot or small containers. This has the advantages of allowing you to grow in small batches and to put the pots in smaller sunny spots around the house.

How to Use Alfalfa at Home

Alfalfa microgreens are a great option for adding green vegetables to your diet. You can use them in:

Sandwich with ricotta and alfalfa microgreens
Sandwich with ricotta and alfalfa microgreens
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Vegetable stocks
  • Casseroles
  • Sandwiches • and salads.

They can also be juiced or blended with fruits. Growing alfalfa indoors ensures that you have a constant supply of the microgreens throughout the year.

Related References

How to grow and use alfalfa in your garden

Flowering alfalfa
Flowering alfalfa

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) or Lucerne is a favorite both in the garden and kitchen. It’s faster and easy to grow outdoors as well as indoors to add a nutty taste to sandwiches or salads. Alfalfa is perfect to grow as you can easily sprout in containers and eat it within just a few days, or grow it as green manure in your home garden to help promote a good healthy soil.

The plant offers many essential nutrients for humans –it helps with the purification of the liver and blood, detoxification of urinary tract, and maintaining body alkalinity. But perhaps most people will remember alfalfa for its extensive commercial use as fodder for livestock. It acts as a rich source of calcium, protein, boron and many other essential elements.

Other than human and livestock use, planting alfalfa in your garden helps restore your soil’s fertility and enhance the growth potential of your garden. Below is a quick overview of how to grow alfalfa in your garden.

How to grow alfalfa

It’s important to note that alfalfa is a perennial crop that grows up to 3 feet tall and spreads 2-3 feet. The plant flowers in May-July and the flowers look like clovers, which can be blue, yellow or purple. The leaves are tri-foliate, narrow and oblong or oval in shape.

Planting and Growing Details

Sunlight:

  • requires shade/sun with up to 3-4 hours of sunlight. You can quickly grow alfalfa sprouts in just 3-5 days indoors in a small tray or a glass jar. When sprouts get to about 2-5 inches, you can transplant them to your garden beds.

Water:

  • it requires regular watering, where you water the topsoil whenever it turns dry. You generally need to keep the soil aerated and moist, but not saturated. Too much watering can result in the development of fungal diseases and rots.

Sowing method:

  •  the best sowing season is spring to summer. You need to prepare a weed-free garden with firm soil so that there is increased contact between the seeds and the soil. Plant your seeds at the recommended rate and keep the soil moist to prevent the developing roots from drying. As earlier mentioned, you can also start by sprout the alfalfa seeds indoors before transplanting the sprouts into your garden.

Care:

  • always keep your alfalfa garden free of weeds. If you have a relatively small garden, you can opt for manual weeding. Otherwise, pre-plant herbicides are recommended for larger plantations. Apply fertilizer as per your soil test results. But the most common fertilizer used at planting is N.P.K fertilizer (a combination of Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium)

Pests:

  • Some of the most common diseases include bacterial wilt, common leaf spot, Downey mildew, and leaf rust. Use appropriate pesticides depending on the disease incidence. Commons pest such as whiteflies, alfalfa caterpillars and aphids tend to promote the growth of sooty mold.

Harvesting and use

If you’re growing alfalfa for your consumption, the best time to harvest your produce is at sprouting stage – about 7-10 days after planting the seeds or at least in the early stages of growth. the larger the alfalfa becomes the woodier the stocks are and the stronger the flavor becomes.

When growing for alfalfa green manure, you will need to allow the plants to grow until the purple blooms develop, at which point you can either just mow it back in the garden or leave it in a fallow bed until you are ready to cultivate the bed and put it back into use. Alfalfa will break down in the soil, releasing nutrients as well as stimulating microbial activity. Additionally, alfalfa adds nitrogen to the soil while it grows and provides erosion protection. If you live in a rural location, alfalfa can be used as fodder for livestock such as chickens, rabbits, and other animals, if your fallow garden location is fenced.

If you’re harvesting alfalfa herb for livestock fodder, you will need to harvest and cure it before flowing sets in or at early bloom. When flowering sets in, it gets difficult for livestock to digest the fodder. Harvesting at early bloom also ensures that you take advantage of the most nutrient content. Also, you will want to want to gather your livestock manure and cultivate it into your garden or add it to your compost pile.

Related References