Cilantro and the Perfect Breakfast
When I was growing up, lunch (we called it dinner, the evening meal was supper) was the Big Meal of the day. In those days, people worked hard, physically. I have great memories of working on a haying crew at ages 14 and 15, and how we'd go to the farmer's house for dinner. The Mrs. would have killed a couple of chickens or cooked a ham and a beef roast and there'd be homemade bread, noodles, lots of corn or green beans, lots of salads, several pies and we'd all eat until we could barely move, then go back to work and work it off by evening. A back injury while working those jobs, age 15, drove me indoors and helped start my years of restaurant work.
What does all this have to do with cilantro, you might wonder? No one had heard of cilantro where I grew up, and I didn't encounter the herb until I was well into adulthood. And when I did find it on my plate, I was not impressed at all.
The results were interesting, with basil being the most popular herb, followed by parsley, dill, etc. Down about number 8 or 9 on the top ten most popular herbs, was French tarragon. Everybody sold it even though a lot of their customers didn't know what to do with it once they had it. But because Julia Child and the new flurry of cooking shows said you had to have it, the herb sold.
my book, Ten Most Popular Herbs You Can Grow, which we sell on-line and wholesale to shops).
Breakfast has become the best meal of the day, and I found that a meal that didn't leave me hungry and wanting snacks by 11:00, was a lot more satisfying than a bowl of cereal that tasted like, well, dead tree bark, and was a lot more fun. So almost every day, I have cilantro on my breakfast burrito. Granted, it's more trouble than a bowl of crunchy dead stuff, and, yes, it takes 10 minutes of time, and yes, I finally, after all these years, look forward to breakfast every day!
Half of a chopped poblano pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped sweet pepper, about 1/3 cup thinly sliced zucchini squash, 1 diced green onion and either cooked chorizo or some precooked sausage. I saute the peppers, onion and squash, add the crumbled sausage or chorizo, then add some salsa while it cooks. Finally, I then heat a large tortilla on top of the skillet of cooking pepper mixture until the tortilla relaxes. I spread that with either sour cream or chopped avocado, pour out the cooked pepper-sausage mixture and top it with a half cup of loosely chopped cilantro, a little more salsa and roll it up like a burrito. There, that's my perfect breakfast I look forward to every day.
The earlier you plant cilantro, the better. I usually plant some in early winter and another seeding on top of the ground in early spring. Cilantro is a cool season plant and will come up when the ground temperatures begin to rise. Mine will be up in mid March and will continue to produce until warm weather. Long about the first or second week of May, cilantro will start bolting into flowering and once that happens, no matter how much you cut it back, the flavor gets "soapy" and the plant is sprinting to produce seed. "Slow-Bolt" cilantro extends the season by about a week, but once the weather is warm, cilantro is done for until fall. (You can easily grow Vietnamese cilantro, a semi-water plant, to take up the slack; Vietnamese cilantro loves hot weather and produces all summer, provided you keep it clipped back about every 10 days to keep the flavor fresh and sweet).
If you think the only reason for the upsurge of cilantro in popularity is primarily from Hispanic influences, you would be wrong. While Hispanic-inspired restaurants have increased over the last decade, so have Asian restaurants. Chinese, Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, all use cilantro, making it one of the most universally used herbs!
And for those who mourn the passage of French tarragon into relative obscurity, think about the last time you were in a restaurant and ate a dish that contained tarragon. It's probably been a long, long time. Then think back to when you last had a dish containing cilantro in a restaurant. It probably wasn't very long ago.
My perfect breakfast may not be to everyone's taste, but I've found this mixture of flavors and ingredients gets me more excited about starting my day than a bowl of lifeless cereal ever did. I actually look forward to breakfast every day and this universal herb has a lot to do with it. Happy gardening!