All About Cilantro


Coriander [ Coriandrum sativum Apiaceae ]. Other common names: Chinese parsley or cilantro. Parts used: Leaves, stems and seeds. The leaves of the Mexican coriander or cilantro [ Eryngium foetidum ] are the most popular variety for growing in the home garden.

Cilantro grows best in full sun with well-drained, moist soil. Direct sow seeds in the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Because cilantro has a long tap root, it doesn’t like being transplanted. Seeds are a much better choice than 3″ inch plants.

Prepare the soil by tilling or spading. Work in some finished compost or other organic matter. Rake the area smooth, and sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep. Cover with soil. Space the seed plantings about a foot apart. Keep the soil evenly moist until green sprouts appear.

When growing cilantro, you’ll want foliage, not stems or seeds. Pinch the plants back to encourage bushier growth. Cut out any developing flower heads, or the plants will stop producing and go to seed.

Cilantro is rarely bothered by insects, due to its strong scent. As a matter of fact, cilantro is considered a natural insect repellant. The leaves are crushed and rubbed on bare skin to discourage insects.

Harvest cilantro leaves when the plants reach 6 to 8 inches. The leaves can be cut at any time. Use the upper leaves in salads, and the lower leaves for cooking. Cilantro can also be grown in planters or containers. Fill the pots with high quality potting mix, moisten the mix, and sow the seeds. Same sun and water requirements for cilantro growing in the garden.

Too much cilantro? Make cilantro butter. Combine 2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter, 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juce. Mix well, and pack into 1/2 cup freezer containers. Freeze. When thawed, it can be used in sauces or for brushing on grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Quick tip: Soak cilantro seeds in a cup of warm water for 30 minutes before planting. This soaking will soften the hard, outer shell and the seed will germinate much faster.

~ Meadow Walker

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