Cilantro is one of those herbs that people either love or hate. There really isn’t any middle ground when it comes to cilantro. I happen to love it. Fortunately, most of my family does too, although not quite to the same extent that I do. Truly, what’s not to like? It’s easy to grow, is really two herbs in one, and has some amazing health benefits. Growing cilantro is something you’ll want to do this fall.
In the US the leaves are called cilantro, the seeds are called coriander. In many other parts of the world, the whole plant is called coriander, either coriander leaves or coriander seeds. It also has other common names such as Mexican or Chinese parsley.
Growing Cilantro and Coriander Seed
Like most herbs cilantro likes loose, well drained soil. In climates that experience mild summers, cilantro can be planted in full sun but in areas that get hot summers, it can be planted in partial shade where it gets morning sun.
Cilantro also likes cooler temperatures. If you live a cold hardiness zone 8 or warmer you can plant cilantro in the fall garden and overwinter it because it’s cold hardy to about 10°F. (If you aren’t sure what what cold hardiness zones are or don’t really understand how your climate affects gardening, you might consider taking our understanding your climate ecourse.)
Cilantro can be directly sown in the garden. If you are planting seeds, you’ll notice that the coriander seed is actually a husk with two seeds in it. Some people will soak the seeds for 24 hours before sowing in the garden. If you’ve had low germination rates in the past, you might want to try this.
For the longest harvest, succession plant by sowing new seeds every 2-3 weeks.
Harvesting Cilantro and Coriander Seeds
You can start picking cilantro leaves as soon as the plant is 4-5 inches tall. The more you pick the bushier the plant will get and the longer it will be before the plant flowers. You can also harvest it in bunches, just cut stalks here and there.
Eventually you’ll notice some leaves that look much more feathery than cilantro leaves do and that will be a sign that the cilantro plant is getting ready to flower. Personally, when the the plant starts to flower I just let it. Some people will cut the flower stalk to prolong the harvest and you can do that too. Just know that eventually it will bolt (flower) and the bees will be happy.
If you want coriander seeds then you need to let the plant to flower. Once it flowers, it will form seed pods that you can harvest. The easiest way to harvest is to let the pods dry out on the plant and cut the clusters off. Then put them in a paper sack and shake it. When you open the bag, the coriander seeds will be at the bottom and you can toss the stems. (This works for dill seeds too.)
Storing Cilantro and Coriander Seeds
Like other herbs, cilantro won’t store well while it’s fresh. You can store stalks in a glass of water in the refrigerator for a few days. Cilantro can be chopped and frozen in ice cube trays with water which is the proper way to to freeze herbs. However, sometimes I just toss it in a ziplock bag and put that in the freezer. I’ve not really noticed a difference in how it tastes when I cook with it frozen either way.
Cilantro can be dehydrated but know that it will lose some of it’s flavor and it’s bright green color.
Coriander seeds can be stored in a small mason jar once you’re sure they are completely dried.
Using Cilantro and Coriander Seeds
Cilantro is used in many Mexican, Indian, and Asian foods. I use it when I can salsa and when I make pintos and rice. I also put it in the Kenyan samosa filling. One of our favorite things to make is pico de gallo to eat with tortilla chips. To make pico de gallo, chop 1 onion, chop 3-4 tomatoes and chop a bunch of cilantro (you can add some chopped jalapeno if you like spice). Mix well in a bowl and cover with the juice of 1-2 (or more) limes. I never measure any of it, we just go by taste.
Pesto is usually mad with basil but cilantro can also be used. Coriander seeds are used in a lot of Indian recipes. The seeds will lost their flavor soon after they are ground so it’s best to grind them just before using them. Nitty Gritty Life shows us how to make ginger coriander ale,
Like most herbs, cilantro has some medicinal properties which includes helping with digestion, helping to rid the body of heavy metals, and is a natural diuretic.
Do you have a favorite way to use cilantro or coriander seeds? If so, tell us about it in the comments.