Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Cilantro Plant Profile

Cilantro Plant Profile

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is an herb that is used in cooking as a flavoring and spice. Cilantro is a pretty plant with lace-like foliage that blends well with ornamental plants in a container or grown in the ground. It is in the same family as dill, parsley, carrots, and celery.

It grows best in full sun and well-draining soils. Amend your soil with compost and plant it from seed directly into the ground. It is usually quick to germinate and you can start harvesting it in a matter of weeks.

Harvest it by cutting off some leaves with kitchen scissors and using them fresh or drying or freezing them in an ice cube with olive oil. Cutting the leaves regularly keeps the plant healthy and encourages more leaf production.

Cilantro is loved by several garden pests so you may need to put a cover cloth over it to keep them out.

Cilantro grows best in the cool-seasons of spring and fall in our region. When the weather heats up, the plants bolt – that is, they set flower and form seeds. That is a good thing though as you can collect these edible seeds (also known as coriander) for planting next season and also use them in the kitchen as a spice.

Cilantro: You Can Grow That!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine as part of our Plant Profile series for Mid-Atlantic USA gardeners.

Audio and text by Kathy Jentz

Video and editing by Cassie Peo

If you enjoy this video, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our Youtube channel (thank you!)

Remember to TURN ON notifications to know when our new videos are out

FIND Washington Gardener Magazine ONLINE





~ Podcast: GardenDC


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Win a Monrovia gift card in the February 2024 Washington Gardener Reader Contest

UPDATE: Our contest winner is Jane Mandelbaum of Washington, DC. Congratulations, Jane!

For our February 2024 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we are giving away a Monrovia gift card (value $100). 

Inspired by the beauty of plants, gardens, and landscapes everywhere, Harry E. Rosedale, Sr. founded Monrovia in 1926 to be a premier grower of shrubs and trees. Monrovia collaborates with plant breeders around the world to introduce improved plant varieties to North America. Monrovia plants flourish once planted to beautify gardens and landscapes. Visit to learn more.

To enter to win the Monrovia gift card, send an email to: by 5:00pm on February 29 with “Monrovia Gift Card” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us what your favorite article was in the February 2024 Washington Gardener Magazine issue and why. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The winner will be announced and notified on/about March 1. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Saturday, February 24, 2024

GardenDC Podcast Episode 183: Elderberry

In this episode of GardenDC: The Podcast about Mid-Atlantic Gardening, we talk with herbalist Susan Belsinger all about Elderberries. The plant profile is on Dill and we share what's going on in the garden as well as some upcoming local gardening events and this week's garden tasks in the What's New segment. We close out with the Last Word on Winter Dreams of Spring by Christy Page of Green Prints.

See Susan's elderberry recipes at:

If you liked this episode, you may also enjoy listening to:

GardenDC Podcast Episode 157: Ginger and Turmeric

~ GardenDC Podcast Episode 62: Edible Flowers

~ GardenDC Podcast Episode 148: Serviceberries and Saskatoons

This episode is archived at:

BTW, YOU can become a listener supporter for as little as $0.99 per month! 

SHOW NOTES: 1:02 Get to know returning guest Susan Belsinger, herbalist and author 4:44 Susan talks about native and non-native elderberries (Sambucus sp.) 6:03 Elderberries tend to fruit the best if you have at least 2 near each another, even be two different varieties, within 60 ft of one another 6:20 Elderberry cultivars 8:25 “I can imagine that for a variegated leaf cultivar, it's not going to get as much chlorophyll uptake in it maybe, and it's not as strong a plant, but does sound like it's more apt for somebody with a smaller-sized garden or a container even” – Kathy 9:22 Full sun to part shade is optimal for elderberry growth in a home 11:02 “They don't have really deep root systems, They're fairly shallow. So a good thing is to mulch around them…to fertilize them every year with compost” – Susan 12:17 Elderberry propagation and pruning 14:50 Don’t harvest all the flowers or else you won’t have any berries! 16:18 “I always want to have elderflower tincture on hand…helping with colds and flus, and things like that” – Susan 16:38 Making elderflower cordials 17:38 How Susan makes delicious elderflower fritters 19:17 Elderflower liqueur such as St Germain 21:19 “It has just the slightest touch of musk to me, but it's somewhat honeysuckle-like, but even more delicate than honeysuckle, it's really great to be able to capture that essence whether it's dried or in a liqueur or in a tincture” – Susan 22:35 The flowers and berries are ready to harvest 2-3 years after planting the shrub 23:05 Birds and deer as potential problems with the berries 25:53 Bird netting can be used, but check it often to ensure other creatures aren’t getting caught 27:55 Harvesting techniques and steps 29:34 “You don’t want to cut a branch that has green berries on it, they need to be totally ripe. The green ones are inedible and really high in the toxins” – Susan 32:40 Benefits of using a freezer when harvesting 33:38 Using dehydrators rather than a freezer 34:47 Susan advises to not eat elderberries right from the shrub due to the toxicity, which can be lessened if heated 37:15 “I process it in small amounts and then I keep the berries or the juice in the freezer and pull it out and use it throughout the season” – Susan 38:40 Medicinal benefits of elderberries 41:54 It's antiviral, it reduces inflammation, and it strengthens the cardiovascular system and they've they're doing studies with it for cancer… and HIV... 44:08 Reach Susan via email at and through her website 45:39 Plant Profile: Dill 47:55 What’s new in the garden this week? Daffodils 48:20 Local garden events including the 2024 Maryland Orchid Society Show in Baltimore, MD 50:10 “Groundcover Revolution” by Kathy Jentz 51:30 “The Urban Garden” book 52:29 Christy Page on Winter Dreams of Spring 55:19 How to support the GardenDC Podcast

We welcome your questions and comments! You can leave a voice mail message for us at: Note that we may use these messages on a future episode.

And be sure to leave us a 5-star review on your favorite podcast platform plus share us on social media with #GardenDC, so other gardeners can find us too!

Episode Credits:
Host and Producer: Kathy Jentz
Interview Edit and Show Notes: Hannah Zozobrado


Friday, February 23, 2024

Elderberry Recipes

Elderberry berries photo by Gary Houston, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Susan Belsinger

Elderberry Juice

By cooking down freshly harvested or frozen elderberries with just a little water, and allowing the contents to cool, the concentrated juice can be extracted from the berries and the juice will be ready to use in recipes, or frozen for a future use. This juice concentrate can be the base of many recipes from jams and jellies, shrubs, syrups, cordials, and much more. It must be refrigerated and used within 24 to 48 hours or frozen (for up to 6 months). Or process in a boiling hot water bath in canning jars: pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes. Here is a recipe for extracting the juice using 6 cups of berries—it is easily multiplied or divided—depending on the quantity of berries you have. Makes about 2 cups of juice


6 cups stemmed elderberries or 2 cups dried elderberries

1 cup water

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the berries and water and place, cover and place over medium heat. Bring the berries and water to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, set the lid askew and let cool to room temperature.

The berries and water will have cooked down to between 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Once cooled, strain the juice through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the contents gently to extract all of the essence. There should be about 2 cups; you can add a little water to equal 2 cups if need be for a recipe. Use in a recipe or process in canning jars in a boiling water bath immediately.

Elderberry Syrup

Prepare the juice above to make this syrup. It can be made in smaller or larger quantities. I do not make large quantities; if you do, it will need to be refrigerated (for up to two weeks) or it is best to process it in canning jars in a boiling water bath and it will keep for up to 1 year. This syrup has so many wonderful uses. I use it straight by the teaspoonful for the symptoms of cold, flu, cough. I use it as the base for cordials and shrubs. It makes a delicious natural soda with sparkling water, combines well in punches, cocktails, with tea or lemonade, as a syrup for pancakes and waffles, drizzle over cakes and fruit, as a base or topping for ice cream. Note: sometimes I prepare this with pure maple syrup, which is yummy; it will be thinner than syrup prepared with honey. Makes 1 quart of syrup


2 cups elderberry juice

2 cups local honey

In a deep bowl, combine the juice and the honey with a whisk. Take your time to combine it so it doesn’t slosh out of the bowl. Pour the syrup into a jar, label, and store in refrigerator for two weeks or process in canning jars in a boiling water bath: half-pints for 10 minutes and pints for 15 minutes. Be sure that they have sealed; if not refrigerate and use within two weeks.

Elderberry Shrub with Honey

This recipe is excerpted from the creative herbal home, Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox, herbspirit, 2007. We have been preparing elderberry shrub for years with only beneficial effects. Awhile back, we found out that elderberries should always be cooked before being eaten to avoid the possibility of ingesting unripe berries. Unripe berries contain prussic acid that causes cyanide poisoning if the berries are not cooked first before being consumed. In the past, we made shrub without cooking the berries. We select only the ripe berries and carefully remove them from the stems before adding them to the vinegar. However, to be safe, we recommend that you bring your vinegar to a simmer and pour it over the elderberries, then proceed with the recipe. 

Recipes for shrubs, also referred to as “switchel” and “beveridge” vary greatly and date as far back as pre-colonial times. Shrubs can be made with sweetened fruit juice, fruit, vinegar, honey or sugar. Some suggest adding spirits such as rum or brandy to the shrub. We have never used spirits to make our shrubs but find the idea seductive.  

Generally shrubs are sipped from a cordial glass, poured over ice, or served with a bit of sparkling water. They are a wonderful remedy for congestion, sore throat, and an excellent tonic for the body. They tend to make us perspire when we drink them. Of course, we choose elderberries for this shrub, however, you may substitute other berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, or a combination thereof.  Makes about 2 quarts


2 cups ripe elderberries

1 quart apple cider vinegar

1 quart honey

Wash and pick over the berries. Put the berries in a non-reactive pan. Pour the vinegar over the berries, cover and bring to a low simmer. Remove from heat and let stand until room temperature. Transfer the contents of the pan into a clean, canning jar and cap with a lid. Let stand two to four weeks; we shake our shrub daily.  

Mash the fruit vinegar and strain through cheesecloth or muslin. Add the honey and blend well. Bottle in dark glass, sterilized jars with non-metal lids. Label contents in bottle; keep out of reach of children.

Store in a cool dark place. We have never known of shrub to go bad in storage however, it will do the body more good if it is used rather than stored. Use it within one year.

Source: Susan Belsinger ©2013 Elder, Herb of the Year 2013™ See more at:

and on the Elderberry episode of the GardenDC Podcast at:


Elderberry marmalade image by saponifier, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Featured Post

Gifts for Gardeners ~ Gardening Gifts ~ Cool Gardening Gift Ideas

Today is Amazon Prime Day, so I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true w...