Cilantro is commonly used in southwestern or Mexican dishes, where it lends its distinctive flavor in recipes and also serves as a popular garnish. Because cilantro is short lived and requires cool growing conditions, it has a reputation for being a difficult herb to grow. However, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way for success in the garden! Here’s what you need to do to grow your own plot of cilantro.
Before You Plant
Choose the Right Type of Cilantro:
- Common, or Santo, cilantro (Coriandum Sativum) prefers the cooler growing conditions of spring and fall.
- Vietnamese cilantro (Polygonum odoratum) is a variety that performs in warmer weather.
- Mexican cilantro (Eryngium foetidum) will grow in the heat when kept shaded and in moist soil.
Find a Suitable Place:
- Cilantro prefers plenty of sunlight, although morning sun and afternoon shade will slow the bolting of the plant.
- Ensure enough room so that plants can be spaced 6â€-12â€ apart.
- The area should drain well.
Prepare the soil:
- Cilantro prefers moist, well drained soil. Amend sandy soil with organic matter and topsoil, or lighten heavy clay with sandy material. Soil should hold moisture but drain well.
- Ordinary potting soil is ideal for growing cilantro in containers.
What You Will Need:
- Cilantro seeds
- Prepared soil
- Peat pots (for transplanting)
How to Plant Cilantro:
- Cilantro is often started indoors, but can be difficult to transplant. For best results, use peat pots that can be planted directly into the garden.
- Move plants or start seeds outdoors after danger of frost.
- Sow seeds outdoors in loose soil, covering lightly with ¼” of soil.
- Water carefully so you don’t wash the seeds away.
- Once plants are established, a thick layer of mulch will help to keep the soil temperature down and increase the useful life of your plants.
- Most gardeners sow a new batch of seeds in the garden every three weeks to maintain a patch of fresh cilantro.
Cilantro requires very basic, although consistent, care to thrive.
What You Will Need:
- Garden clippers or scissors
Steps for Care and Maintenance:
- Trim flower heads before they bloom to prolong the harvest time and life of the plant.
- You can use the leaves at any time, but they have the best flavor once the plant is 6″ tall.
- Cilantro matures in about eight weeks.
Additional Tips and Advice
- If your cilantro plants do bolt, you can harvest the seeds, called coriander, which are staples of the spice cabinet.
- Cilantro that matures fully in the garden will drop seeds, which will often result in new seedlings.
- Cilantro loses much of its flavor when dried, so the herb is almost always used fresh.
- To store cilantro for cooking, wash the leaves and freeze them in a freezer bag. They will lose some of their aesthetic appeal, but will still lend flavor to soups and other hot dishes.