Regardless of whether you buy your vegetables at a farmer’s market or at Food Lion, you are only able to capture a snapshot within the complete lifecycle of the plant. On the farm we watch closely as seeds germinate, push up their first little leaves, and then nurture them until they are ready to bring to market, hopefully in their optimal state. The quality is set by the expectation of the consumer and by what we believe will taste best, though one of the benefits of growing your own food is being able to experiment with different ingredients as they mature. An example of this is finding uses for vegetables and herbs that appear to be past their prime. Cilantro greens in particular become quite bitter near the end of its life when the plant begins to flower, but a woman we met at market turned us on to the merits of using the actual root of the plant. Apparently it is a very popular ingredient in thai cuisine, and it is a often pickled or used as the base of a marinade or sauce. Since then, we’ve incorporated it into a lot of our recipes and it’s grown immensely popular at market. The following recipe provides a very simple preparation that could then be used as the base of a curry, as a marinade for meat or a dipping sauce.
One bunch cilantro root
6 cloves garlic (peeled)
One medium piece ginger (peeled)
One green onion (green tops removed and set aside)
To process the cilantro root, remove the green tops and set them aside. Remove the very small hair-like roots and chop them finely. Using a microplane, the smallest setting on a box grater, or a food processor, grate the larger part of the root into a paste. Repeat this action with the garlic and ginger, then combine all three along with thinly sliced green onion. From this point, you have many choices. Adding a little rice wine vinegar and vegetable oil will provide you with a fine marinade from meat, but if you throw it in a hot wok with oil, you could start building the base of a curry or stir fry. Your other option is mixing everything with the juice of a lime, a ½ cup of fish sauce and a ½ of soy sauce to make an amazing dipping sauce for dumplings or potstickers.
If you like the green tops of the cilantro root, we recommend slicing them very thin and using them in salads, guacamole, stir fries, and marinades.