Cilantro is an herb that is commonly found in Mexican and Tex-Mex or South Western dishes. It has a strong, distinctive flavor that is quite unmistakable. The seeds of the cilantro plant are also used to season food, and are called coriander. Growing your own cilantro can be a bit tricky, but with attention and care you'll be harvesting this wonderful herb and using it in your own cuisine.
Let's get started!
- Cilantro plants grow and go to seed very quickly, so you'll want to plant them continuously throughout the growing season; every three weeks or so to maintain your crop. Once the roots consistently reach 75 degrees, the plant will start to seed.
- Plant the herb seeds a few inches apart in an area of your garden that gets both sun and shade - preferably morning sun and afternoon shade. Planting them close together will give your cilantro plants a bit of extra shade to keep the roots cooler, longer. Seeds should be planted about 1/4 inch deep.
- Spring and fall are the best times to grow cilantro, since the heat of the summer sun will speed up the process and your plants will bolt to seed quickly. The soil should be well drained and moist for optimum growth.
- Add a bit of mulch or compost to your cilantro bed to provide nutrients for the soil and an extra layer of protection for the roots.
- If your plants begin to flower, trim off the flower heads to prolong leaf growth. This directs the plant's energy back into the leaves rather than the flowers and seeds. If you allow the seed heads to mature, they will resow themselves back into your garden and you'll have another crop in a few weeks.
- Under good conditions and careful monitoring, your plants should be ready to harvest after about 8 weeks.
How to Harvest Cilantro
- Cilantro leaves can be cut at any time during their growth period, but waiting until the plant is about 6 inches tall will give you optimum leaves.
- Cut the outer leaves first, allowing the smaller leaves that are closer to the stalk to continue to grow and mature. Keep an eye on your cilantro plants, as they grow quickly.
- You will likely get to harvest the leaves two or three times before the plants bolt to seed. Once they begin to seed, you can collect the seeds and use them as coriander, or save them to dry out and replant.
- Cilantro leaves generally aren't very good to dry and store. Dried leaves lose their flavor, so this herb is almost always used fresh.
Once you've grown and harvested your cilantro, you'll want to make good use of it. Try adding chopped, fresh cilantro to commercially prepared salsa. You won't believe the difference!