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Kitchen Gardening

How to Grow Cilantro and Coriander

Cilantro (Chinese parsley) may resemble its namesake, but it's not the wall flower that parsley is in the garden.

  • Harvest cilantro's leaves whenever you need to.   Photo by Michael Lehet under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Watch cilantro (Chinese parsley) carefully - she bolts fast.     Photo by jasmine&Roses under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • And if your cilantro does bolt - you can always harvest coriander!   Photo by yoppy under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Cilantro or Chinese parsley may resemble its namesake, but it’s not the wallflower that parsley is in the garden. No, cilantro lets you know it’s around with its highly aromatic leaves. I’ve found that if you enjoy cilantro in your food, you really enjoy it. Those who don’t like the herb find its scent unpleasant. Personally, I’m a cilantro lover. It smells like a fresh breeze and absolutely makes Mexican food for me. And I wouldn’t make salsa without it.

Growing Cilantro

Cilantro is an annual that likes to be planted so that it’s arms receive full sun, while its feet are nestled in a rich, light soil. Sow the seeds in situ (their permanent bed) in the spring. This herb has a long taproot so it doesn’t enjoy transplanting. It’s a cool-season crop that reacts quickly to hot days…by quickly bolting. So it’s a good idea to plant them in intervals.

To prevent bolting (bursting quickly into bloom), you’ll have to pinch the flower buds down deep—don’t be afraid to take off several sets of leaves with it—and use them, of course. Cilantro is ready for harvest after 45 days or so. But harvest the leaves before the plant bolts or the taste may turn unpleasant. Take leaves as you need them for culinary dishes all season long. Cilantro is used in many meat and Mexican dishes, as well as soups, chutneys and curries.

Sometimes the worst happens and your cilantro bolts well before you’re done harvesting. If so, never fear; your herb collection has only gotten bigger. After cilantro blooms its white or pink blossoms, the seed that appears is the spice coriander! Coriander seeds have a nutty flavor that’s been described as sweet and spicy at the same time. Aside from its use as a culinary spice, coriander is also chewed as a breath freshener. It’s said to work wonders after one has eaten garlic.

Saving Coriander Seeds

Homegrown coriander is said to be way superior to coriander seeds purchased in supermarkets, so you may want to try some in your garden this year. If you’d like to save coriander (cilantro) seeds, you’ll need about 100 days to get them. Simply collect them when they turn light brown, just before they begin dropping on their own. This is about 2 to 3 weeks after the plant finishes flowering.

You can cut the stems, secure a cloth or paper bag around the head then hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated place to dry. You can also shake the seeds from the heads, then spread them out on cardboard for a couple of weeks. Keep your seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for culinary use or as seeds for next year’s crop. Mango salsa with cilantro and corianderCoriander is a versatile spice and is used in baked goods such as cookies and cakes. It’s routinely used in sausages and adds flavor to soups, or casseroles.

Cilantro recipes to try:
Mango Salsa
Pacific Rim Pesto
Cilantro Salsa Verde
• Grilled Fish with Cilantro Rub
• Potatoes with Cilantro and Lime-Garlic Butter
Fragrant Orange Salad with Cilantro and Mint

More cilantro info:
• How to Grow Cilantro
• How to Harvest and Dry Coriander
Sassy Cilantro

Previous: How to Grow Cilantro Next: How to Keep Cilantro Fresh
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