Chowhound Indoor Herb Gardening

Recently our daughter Katie, who lives in a San Francisco apartment with good western exposure asked for tips and plants to start an indoor herb garden. She has no outdoor growing space but lives close to Golden Gate Park where a nature is never far away.

I began looking at the new style fluorescent bulbs, some are daylight and some are full spectrum, great for growing plants. Screw these into a reflector with clamps that squeeze open and it’s pretty simple to develop an economical indoor herb garden. Fluorescent lights don’t have the heat buildup of incandescents and are economical to use.

Serendipity often occurs. While I was in the midst of figuring out how to do this, Roxanne Webber, an editor for Chow.com called with a few questions about growing herbs indoors for city dwellers, just like my daughter. She was writing an article that would be posted in a few days. I offered to watch for comments to her article an trouble shoot if needed.

When I was in San Francisco, a few days ago, I met Roxanne and we visited about chowhound, gardening, and all those things discussed with a new friend. Her article is posted at Chow.com. My dialogue and Q&A follows at Chowhound. I will answer questions until next week.

The discussion has been lively and I do encourage questions on indoor herb gardening.

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Papalo or Summer Cilantro

Papaloquelite, Porophyllum ruderale known as papalo or summer cilantro, is a Mexican and Central American herb. The leaves have a warm pungency like cilantro with a hint of citrus and a more powerful flavor. I recommend using about 1/3 as much papalo as cilantro when preparing salsa and then adjust flavor to your taste. In Mexico, restaurants often place a little vase of papalo cuttings on the table and the diner adds leaves as desired.
The use of Papaloquelite “butterfly herb” predates the introduction of cilantro, Coriandrum sativum to Mexico by thousands of years. It’s easy to understand why cilantro with it’s similar flavor was so quickly adopted. It is used for salsas, sandwiches, guacamole, salads or simply sprinkled over rice and beans. The flavor is lost when cooked. This Cornell U website has information on papalo.
http://www.gardenmosaics.cornell.edu/pgs/science/english/papalo.htm
Plants grow in ordinary garden soil with moderate to full sun. This summer mine has grown well in a shallow container and never bolted in summer heat. Today I sowed seeds in a small rectangular container for a windowsill garden. The intense flavor may possibly substitute for cilantro in Indian and SE Asian cooking. If you enjoy cooking with unusual herbs this is one to try.Papalo or summer Cilantro

Rustic Salsa
6 ripe Roma Tomatoes
1 Bell Pepper, any color
2 Pasilla chiles or ‘Holy Mole’
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper
½ small mild onion, peeled & chunked
½ cup lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Chopped papalo leaves (1 to 2 tblsp).

Take a large skillet, heat and add whole tomatoes and peppers, heating until skins are slightly charred. Rub off skin from tomatoes and chunk. Remove skin from peppers, and don’t be concerned about a few charred bits as they will add flavor. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and surrounding light colored tissue to temper the heat. Place all ingredients except papalo in a food processor or blender and process only until slightly chunky. Pour into dish and add 1 tablespoon papalo. Taste after five minutes and add more papalo if needed.