Growing cilantro is a great addition to your herb garden.
Cilantro also known as coriander and Chinese parsley is an annual that grows 18 to 24 inches producing pretty soft flowers and fine lobed leaves.
Planted from seed cilantro will mature in 90 days. Because of the tap root cilantro is sensitive to transplanting and dose not transplant well.
All parts of the cilantro plant can be used, leaves, seeds and the root can be eaten.
Coriander seeds have been use for centuries in flavoring liqueurs and gins. The seeds are crushed before using to impart their best flavor which is citrus like and used in fruit recipes, meat dishes and sausages.
Cilantro leaves are used fresh in North America for salsas, salads and soups. The strong flavor of the leaves is an acquired taste.
Some have described it as having a soapy flavor. The leaves loose their strong flavor when dried so cilantro leaves are usually used fresh.
The root of the plant has the same strong flavor as the leaves with an added nutty note. The roots are used in Thai cooking. The root is prepared my mincing and then added to salads. It can also be used in relishes.
Photo by H. Zell
Sow cilantro seeds in the spring after the frosts are past. Usually around April and May in most parts of the United States. Cilantro seeds will germinate easily in most soils.
Plant in full sun with well drained soil. In hotter climates plant cilantro in a partial shaded area in the summer.
Cilantro seeds are larger and easy to plant. Place them in holes ½ inch deep 4 inches apart. Keep 8 inches between the rows.
Keep the plants mulched to control weeds. Mulching also helps retain the moisture in the soil. Cilantro will reseed itself if allowed to go to seed. So consider placing cilantro in a permanent spot to come back each season.
Do not over fertilize cilantro as too much nitrogen can affect the flavor of the herb.
You can start to harvest fresh cilantro leaves when the plant is about 5 to 6 inches in height.
Harvest the young outside leaves at the stem node. When the flower buds begin to form you can pinch off the stems below the bud to promote bushing and limit the seeds.
Harvest the seeds when the leaves and flowers begin to turn brown but before the seeds are completely dry.
The seeds scatter easily so hang the plants to dry and enclose the flower heads in bags to catch falling seeds.
When the plant is dry you can remove the remaining seeds by knocking the seed heads against the inside of a 5 gallon plastic bucket. The seeds will fall into the bucket.
Cilantro/Coriander seeds must be dried completely to develop the citrus flavor. Green seeds have a bitter flavor. Store the dried seeds in a container with a lid to keep moisture out.