How to Grow Cilantro at Home
Cilantro is one of the most versatile herbs you can easily grow at home. Its fresh leaves and seeds can be used in many Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian cuisines. While the flavor of this herb can be quite polarizing, it’s still a great addition to any herb garden.
By following just a few simple tips you can plant, care for, and grow your own cilantro plants at home. Read on to find out more!
Cilantro at a Glance
Cilantro or Coriandrum sativum is an annual herb native from Southern Europe and Northern Africa to Southwestern Asia. It is also called coriander and Chinese parsley. This is a member of the Apiaceae family of plants and is related to carrots, parsley, and celery.
This soft plant can grow up 6 to 10 inches tall and can spread anywhere between 4 inches and 10 inches depending on the variety you have.
It has variably-shaped green leaves with those at the base being broadly lobed while those located higher up the plant are slender and feathered. It has small white or pale pink flowers and globular fruits (<— Coriander).
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These herbs are relatively quick to mature. You can start picking the flat leaves of the plant within 50 to 55 days of starting seed. If you want to harvest the Coriander seeds it produces after flowering, you might have to wait up to 100 days since it typically bolts to make seed heads when the days start to lengthen and the temperatures rise in the summer.
One of the most unique things about cilantro is the flavor of the leaves and that different people may perceive the taste of its leaves differently. Some people enjoy it’s refreshing, lemony, or lime-like flavor while others don’t quite agree with its pungent and soapy taste and smell.
My Mother tastes it as soap, yet I nor any of my kids or hubby taste it that way. Except I told the oldest son and now he’s upset cause he thinks it tastes like soap – the power of suggestion is incredible! lol
Cilantro is best grown when you sow seeds directly in the garden bed. This is because it can germinate in just 7 to 10 days so it doesn’t need to be started indoors under grow lights. Plus, it develops a tap root which means it doesn’t like to be transplanted.
This herb prefers a neutral pH of 6.2 to 6.8 but it can grow in any rich moist soil. Since it is a fast-growing plant, make sure to give it lots of organic matter to feed on.
Sow cilantro seeds 1/4-inch deep and about 1 foot apart directly in the garden soil in late spring or early summer. If you want to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro throughout its growing season, succession plant a new batch of cilantro every two weeks.
Cilantro is a cool weather herb and it grows best in light shade or partial shade. However, if you keep it moist enough, it can handle warm weather and full sun in the early spring and in the fall. But, be careful to avoid overwatering these new plants so you don’t end up with root rot and waterlogging.
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Caring for Cilantro Plants
If you’re growing this versatile plant for its fresh Cilantro leaves, you’ll want to works towards maximizing its foliage. Pinch back young cilantro plants up to an inch or longer to encourage bushier new growth. As soon as the top part of the main stem starts to develop flower buds or seed pods, cut them off to redirect the plant’s energy into leaf growth.
As we discussed earlier, cilantro starts to bolt once hot weather hits. Once it begins to set seeds, the plant will quickly degrade and it will self-sow. Alternatively, you can gather the seed pods to harvest the Coriander seeds they produce.
Harvesting and Using Cilantro
The great thing about cilantro is you get two kinds of ingredients from just one plant. You can start harvesting the new leaves once the plants are about 6 inches tall.
Simply pinch off portions of the upper stem and use it fresh in your recipes. If you want to store the large leaves, it’s best to freeze them since they lose all their flavor once they dry out. You can store them safely in a freezer bag.
The seeds of the plant – Coriander, on the other hand, can be harvested if you allow the cilantro plant to flower. Once the flowers on the flower heads have dried, you’ll be left with seedpods. Simply pull them off the plant and set them out to dry for 5 to 7 days before storing in an airtight container.
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