What to do when your Cilantro Bolts…

Other than pull your hair out, scream in frustration, angrily rip it out by its roots and burn it in a bonfire….ok, that may be extreme….but if you are fond of growing herbs (like me), than take heed to what I am about to tell you.  Cilantro, Basil, Sage, etc. and often many lettuces have an annoyingly bad habit of doing something called ‘bolting’ when it gets too hot outside.

Bolting refers to the plant slowing down leaf production in favour of flowering and setting seed.  The plants main focus (after leaf production for food/growth) is to generate flowers which turns into fruits and/or seeds (depending on the plant) which then completes the life cycle of the plant.  Something your plant is programmed to do like a robot and you have ZERO control over unless you are a mad scientist and know something I don’t.

 DSC06400This is my first Cilantro plant that I grew from seeds started back in March….and it bolted 2 weeks ago.  Aside from cutting a vase full, I am actually letting this one flower in its planter box and set seed so I can collect the seeds to start over next spring (saves $$$ on buying new seed packets, I am cheap after all).

The best way to handle plant types that make a habit of bolting (as I have found in the past year or so of immersing myself into this gardening business), is to plant successive seeds of whatever you like (in my case, its Cilantro) all summer long.  Every 2 weeks, I start a new batch of seeds in a pot, like these below, they sprouted up over the very rainy weekend we just had.

DSC06405Then, when the oldest plants start to bolt, I have younger plants that fulfill my culinary needs without resorting to cursing out the plant for its apparent wonton behaviour and then head to the nearest grocery store to buy a HUGE handful of dried out ‘fresh’ Cilantro at an inflated price.

DSC06407Here is a batch that is 3 weeks old, Their second and third sets of leaves have unfurled and they are well on their way.

DSC06408This batch is about 5 weeks old, look and compare the shape of the leaves on this one to the first picture above of the bolted Cilantro in the vase.  The shape of the leaves change from wide and spread out to almost needle-like.  It doesn’t affect the flavour of the leaves, you just need to use a lot more Cilantro leaves when a plant has bolted as opposed to one that hasn’t.

I always like to have fresh Cilantro on hand for when I get the urge for a bowl of Pico de Gallo or Guacamole, which is just about every day of the week it seems!

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