If you’re a cooking enthusiast, then you should learn how to grow cilantro – also known as coriander. Cilantro is one of the most commonly used herbs in the world. Cilantro is one of the oldest spices. Many ancient cultures valued it for its complex flavor and perceived medicinal properties.
The whole plant of cilantro can be used for cooking, so it is very versatile. If you learn how to grow cilantro, you can harvest the entire crop from the roots to the flowers. According to Mauro Colagreco, a three-Michelin starred chef, you can taste a plant at all stages of its development if it is growing close to the kitchen. For example, cilantro’s leaves, flowers, green seeds, and dry seeds all taste very different.
Cilantro is a staple ingredient in many different dishes, once you know how to successfully grow it.
All About Cilantro Plant
The plant looks like it is related to carrots and parsley. The thin, long stems of this plant come from one taproot and often grow in a chaotically sprawling manner over time. We love to munch on the feathery, fern-like leaves atop each stem. The leaves at the bottom of the plant are more round than the ones at the top, and they look a lot like parsley. Cilantro grows fast, reaching up to 2 feet tall and wide.
Cilantro plants produce white or pink flowers in the heat of the summer. There is a central stem from which multiple flower-topped shoots grow, forming an umbrella-shaped inflorescence. The cilantro flower produces aromatic coriander seeds when it reaches maturity. The small, yellow-brown pods on this plant contain the seeds.
The entire plant is safe to eat, including the roots which are commonly used in Thai dishes. The popularity and age of the plant might be due to its benefits. Coriander seeds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Coriander seeds have been used as a part of dishes in China and India for many years. You will have a hard time finding an Indian curry that does not contain coriander.
This plant may have originated in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, but it has been grown worldwide for ages. Cilantro is a popular herb that is produced in many countries around the world. Mexico is the top commercial growing country and California is the top producing state.
Cilantro has a short life because it cannot withstand high temperatures. You can make your food last longer by choosing a type of food that can withstand high temperatures without losing its flavor. We prefer the Calypso, Marino, and Santo types. Some types of cilantro can withstand colder temperatures better than others, making them ideal to grow during winter in zones 8-9.
If you’re still cringing at the thought of cilantro, you’re not alone. A genetic variation that affects up to 14% of the population causes them to experience a soapy taste when eating cilantro. People with a gene that makes them taste soapiness in cilantro can get used to the taste if they ate it often while growing up. If you can’t stand the taste of cilantro, there are some other herbs that can be used as substitutes, including Vietnamese cilantro and papalo.
Planting is mostly about prolonging the plant’s life before it bolts. Cilantro grows relatively quickly, so you can start harvesting about a month after planting. To get the most out of your plants, plant them just after the last frost of spring. In areas that never experience frost, you might be able to grow cilantro during the winter! It’s recommended that you plant cilantro every other week if you want a continuous harvest.
The best way to ensure a reliable and quick crop of cilantro is to learn how to grow it from seed. You should sow your cilantro seeds at the right time, as cilantro plants don’t do well in high temperatures. If you plant them during the summer, they will go to seed prematurely.
Cilantro does not do well when transplanted, so it is best to sow the seeds directly in the soil where you want the herb to grow. A light soil that has been amended with compost or manure will be best as it will not dry out in the summer and encourage the plant to bolt.
- Sow your seeds in a spot where the plants will receive some shade. ’Cilantro prefers light shade to full sun as young plants are prone to scorching,’ says Hann.
- Thinly sow the seeds in shallow drills around 7-8 inches apart, then cover with a fine layer of soil.
- Keep the soil moist, but do not allow it to become waterlogged.
- It will take between one and three weeks for the seeds to germinate.
- Once your seedlings have emerged, thin them out to about 3-4 inches apart, or double this if you are growing cilantro for the seed.
- As with many other herbs, you can pinch out the main growing tips of cilantro to produce a bushier plant.
Cilantro Plant Care
Hearing that cilantro growing isn’t demanding will make you happy. It’s actually quite the opposite. This means that if you put more effort into your harvest, you will get a better result.
Sun and Temperature
Your cilantro plants need to be in full sun for most of the day, but they can have some light shade in the afternoon. They can run away and get sunburned if they’re in direct sunlight and it’s hot, especially if the temperature is over 75°F. The plants can grow in different temperature zones, but it is important to put them in the right location. Coriander grows best indoors in southern zones because it prefers cooler temperatures. Wait to plant until after the last frost to avoid damage to your plants.
Water and Humidity
You should water your cilantro plants whenever the soil starts to dry out. If you want to grow coriander for its seeds, you should water it less when the flowers appear.
Humidity-wise, coriander likes to be dry. You can help prevent mildew and control this by keeping the leaves dry when you water your plants (this will also help to prevent pests and diseases).
To ensure your plants are healthy, you will need soil that is rich in nutrients, evenly moist, and has good drainage. It is best if the pH is 6.2 to 6.8, but these plants are not too choosy about that. To help prevent the roots from getting too hot and causing the plant to bolt, spread mulch across the soil surface.
Cilantro fertilizer is not necessary, but it can help you grow a consistent amount of herbs. After the plants have been growing for a month, you should apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks at most.
The only pruning you need to do if you want to harvest cilantro leaves is to cut the leaves themselves. You can improve the shape of the foliage by carefully planning your pruning. Save your cilantro by cutting off the leggy stems! They will regrow bushier than before.
If your plants bolt, you can’t simply prune off the flowers and keep harvesting. The plant is trying to go to seed, and will be less productive. When flowers start to form, the flavor of the leaves dramatically changes and can’t go back to normal.
You don’t need to propagate cilantro in any other way than growing it from seed, because it’s so easy to do. The plant often reproduces on its own and has even been found growing in places where it wasn’t planted by humans. Leave the plant as is and it will usually grow again the following year (may not be true to type). Harvest cilantro seeds to plant the following year.
Once you know how to grow cilantro, you need to know how to harvest it. The entire plant is edible and should be harvested at different times to maximize its benefits.
Cilantro leaves and stems are used in salads and as a garnish for curries, soups, meat, and fish. The flavor of these ingredients is citrusy and slightly peppery, but this is decreased when they are cooked, so add them just before serving.
Pick the leaves in the morning or evening, when they are fresh and vibrant, and before the plant starts blooming, which impacts the flavor. Use sharp scissors or a small knife to cut off the stems.
The edible seeds of cilantro are known as coriander and have a wonderful aroma. According to Vicki Edgson in Amazing Edible Seeds, the dried seeds have a warm, spicy, citrus flavor and can be used whole, crushed in a pestle and mortar, lightly toasted or dry-fried in a pan to release their aroma and enhance their pungent spiciness, or ground to a fine powder.
Coriander seeds can be harvested when they are young and green or when they turn brown. Both have a unique flavor, so it is worth experimenting with both. To harvest green seeds, pick them directly from the plant. To harvest brown seeds, hang the flower heads upside down in a paper bag and wait for them to fall off naturally.
Cilantro flowers are lighter in taste than the leaves, which makes them ideal for dishes where a delicate flavor is desired. Pick them when they are in full bloom but before they start to wilt. Add the herbs at the end of cooking or use them as a garnish.
Do you know how to store cilantro properly? Cilantro will stay fresh in the fridge for approximately one week. Keeping them in water like flowers will help them stay fresh longer. If any leaves on the bunch start to go bad, remove them immediately so the others can stay fresh.
The leaves lose flavor when dried, but they keep their flavor when frozen. The most popular method for preparing mint is to chop up the leaves and put them in an ice cube tray. Add water or another liquid to the cooking tray and freeze it. Instead of having to chop up cilantro whenever you need it while cooking, you can store cilantro in ice cube trays so that it’s readily available.
To store coriander, make sure the seeds are completely dried out. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. They’ll last for a few years with this method. You can either use the whole seeds or ground them up, depending on the dish you’re making.
If you want to learn how to grow cilantro and keep it coming back year after year, then it’s best to get a perennial variety. If you want to be able to enjoy cilantro for an extended period of time, you will need to plant it successively. In mild climates, cilantro can often survive into winter.
Is cilantro a perennial?
It is good news that cilantro reseeds itself, so if you allow some of the plants to go through their life cycle of flowering and then producing seeds, you should get new seedlings in the spring.
If you’re only interested in how to grow cilantro as a perennial, then you should consider growing culantro instead. This is a tropical plant that is related to cilantro. It has a strong aroma and flavor and is best added to food while it is being cooked.
The leaves of this plant look very different from cilantro’s parsley-like leaves. They are long and have serrated edges. If you’re looking for a herb to grow in a shady garden, culantro is a great option. It’s less likely to go to seed in shady conditions than it is in full sun.
Maintaining a Cilantro Plant
Maintaining a cilantro plant is usually straightforward. As long as you plant it in neutral to acidic well-draining soil, and don’t grow it in the high heat of summer, then you’ll be off to a good start. Simply keep the soil moist – but not waterlogged. Cilantro does not need to be fertilized, but it may benefit from a light liquid feed occasionally. The biggest concern when growing cilantro is preventing it from bolting. This is usually caused by growing it in unsuitable conditions.
If you are growing cilantro in a pot, move it to a shadier spot during hot weather to prevent it from bolting. It’s best to avoid transplanting cilantro wherever possible, as the plant doesn’t respond well to having its roots disturbed. Be sure to gather a sufficient amount of soil around the roots and handle them gently so as not to damage them.
Minimizing the amount of slugs and snails present around cilantro plants can be done through the use of barriers or biocontrols. Aphids and whitefly can be a problem, so keep an eye out and use natural repellents to keep them away.
Mildew or damping off can also affect cilantro. Issues with overcrowding and overwatering are best avoided.
Most problems can be easily solved, so don’t let them dissuade you from learning how to grow cilantro.