As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started getting my seed packets organized, and to make sure that I will not miss the right dates to sow the different varieties of veggies and herbs, I always divide them in five groups, according to the time when it will be right to start them: early spring, cool season, warm season, hot season, and late summer. Now it is feeling like “early spring” and I have spotted three seed packets that I would like to highlight from this first group: tomatillo, serrano peppers and cilantro.
If you usually grow tomatoes and peppers from seed, starting a few of tomatillo and serrano pepper to add to your plot will be very easy, but even if you are not an experienced gardener, it is worth trying these two vegetables at least once, because unlike tomatoes and other peppers, it is not always easy to find them fresh at the store. There is still time to order seeds; they should arrive within a week. In the meantime, gather small pots or containers; I use anything from actual small pots (about 2″ diameter), to trimmed milk cartons, and even those plastic boxes where mushrooms and other delicate produce are packed at the supermarket. I like using potting soil for my seedlings, so I buy it bagged at the hardware store. The most important part is to locate a nice spot for the pots, warm and either by a window facing south, or with growing lights. I have been using windows for the past years; I got a small growing light kit for Christmas, so this year I am experimenting with that as well.
For cilantro, I know that it is always available at the supermarket, but sowing the seed directly outdoors is very easy, and it provides a nice supply of “on demand” cilantro leaves for a few months; the big bonus is getting coriander seed later in the season, for cooking and to save for next year’s crop, and although not specifically for Mexican dishes, the blooms, green seed and roots are also edible, what a bargain! As soon as the soil is workable (not frozen), prepare the area by loosening the ground with a rake and removing any rocks; I like to water the soil at this point, so that I won’t disturb or bury the seeds too much by watering on top. Once the soil is loose and moist, I sprinkle the coriander seed (cilantro), and finish with a thin layer of soil. This method is also good for large containers, and to apply to any other small seed that can be just scattered, such as spinach, lettuce and parsley.
More details and photographs on how to grow tomatillos, peppers and cilantro, and seed sources, can be found in my “From Seed to Table” guides. I will follow up when I start my 2018 “early spring” seeds.
From left to right – tomatillo seed: purple, and Toma Verde packets, on the 2018 Vesey’s catalogue showing Tomayo; serrano seed: packet from McKenzie’s, and saved seed from my 2017 crop, on the 2018 West Coast catalogue showing Sureño variety; coriander seed (cilantro): saved seed from my 2016 crop, on the 2018 Vesey’s catalogue showing Calypso variety.
These are my plants from past seasons, left to right: Toma Verde tomatillo (2017), serrano pepper (2016), cilantro in container (2013)