I’ve yet to meet anyone indifferent to the flavor of the herb cilantro. You either love it or dislike it. If, like me, you fall into the former category I have good news … You Can Grow That! Cilantro is one of the easiest herbs to grow. In fact, growing it can provide you with two herbs for the price of one. Cilantro (the leaves of the plant) and coriander (the seeds) are both products of the Coriandrum sativum plant.
Cilantro is best grown from seed. It has a long tap root and is not particularly fond of being transplanted except when very young. For best results give it well drained soil and full sun. In my zone 6 area of Connecticut, I have sown cilantro seed from early through late spring. I sow again in late summer for a fall crop. The plant is quick to go to flower so to insure an ample supply of fresh leaves it is best to sow new seeds in two week successions. But cilantro is useful even warm weather induces it to flower and set seed. The flowers can be used in food dishes, though they have a slightly different flavor than cilantro leaves. The mature and dried seeds are coriander, also used in cooking and baking.
My favorite method of growing cilantro is a year-round process. Sow seed in planting beds in early spring. Keep a frost protection covering at hand to protect the plants from frosty nighttime temperatures. Use as many young leaves as possible and try to delay flowering by snipping off the top parts of each plant. Eventually, though the flowers win out and leaf production slows. Let the healthiest plants set seed. When the seeds are dry and turn a light brown they drop to the ground. Encourage them to drop in optimal areas, cover them with a bit of soil, and make sure they are watered regularly. Soon young cilantro plants emerge and mature in time for late summer early fall harvest. Use floating row covers or a cold frame to protect any young plants when cold autumn temperatures arrive. When in the protection of a cold frame, cilantro will continue to grow until real cold moves in, then it goes dormant. It usually survives under cover through winter when given occasional supplemental water during bouts of warmer weather. During warmer winters you may be able to harvest fresh cilantro from the cold frame. During colder winters the plants remain dormant until warmer temperatures return. Water regularly when overwintered plants begin showing signs of growth and open the cold frame when temperatures permit. Once freezing temperatures stop, remove the cold frame.
Right now, my planting beds are in a state of alteration so my early cilantro sowing (see the photo) was in pots. But as soon as my planting beds are reestablished, I’m returning to the cilantro growing method mentioned above. I adore the particularly strong flavor of cilantro that overwintered inside a cold frame. I use chopped cilantro in tomato-, cucumber- or fruit-based salsa, in egg and potato salads, as a garnish for grilled or baked fish – it’s especially good with salmon and swordfish – and, of course, in guacamole.
Like so many herbs, once you experience the fresh taste of home-grown cilantro, you’ll hesitate to reach for grocery store versions. Fortunately, cilantro is an easy, You Can Grow That! herb.
You Can Grow That! is a blog meme occurring on the fourth of each month. It was started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening to remind everyone that gardening is good for people. Gardening enriches our senses, our food, and our health. Gardening fosters friendship and increases ones appreciation of nature. Read more You Can Grow That! posts by visiting Whole Life Gardening.
Garden thoughtfully and remember,