An herb with wide delicate lacy green leaves and a pungent flavor. The seed of the cilantro plant is known as coriander. Although cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, their flavors are very different and cannot be substituted for each other. (Some countries refer to the cilantro as coriander, so any references to “fresh coriander” or “coriander leaves” refer to cilantro.) Note: “Culantro” is an herb related to cilantro that is widely used in dishes throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Far East.
HOW TO GROW
Choose the time of year. The best time to plant cilantro depends on where you live. Cilantro won’t survive in frosty conditions, but it doesn’t like extreme heat either. In temperate climates, the best time to start planting cilantro is in late spring, between the months of March and May. In more tropical climates, cilantro will grow better during cooler, dry times of year, such as fall.
- If the weather grows too hot, the cilantro plants will start to bolt – which means they will flower and go to seed, so choose your time of year wisely.
Prepare a spot in your garden. Select a patch of soil where the cilantro will get full exposure to the sun. It will tolerate some shade in southerly areas where the sun gets very hot during the day. The soil should be light and well-drained with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.
- If you wish to cultivate the soil before planting, use a shovel, rototiller or spade to work 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) of an organic mulch such as compost, rotten leaves or manure into the top layer of soil. Rake the area smooth before planting.
Plant the cilantro seeds. Sow the seeds about 1⁄4 inch (0.6 cm) deep, spaced 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 cm) apart, in rows approximately 1 foot (0.3 m) apart. Cilantro seeds need plenty of moisture to germinate, so make sure to water them frequently. They need about an inch of water per week. They should germinate in about 2 to 3 weeks.
- As cilantro grows so quickly, you should plant a new batch of seeds every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that you have a fresh supply of cilantro throughout the growing season.
Care for the cilantro. Once the seedlings have reached about 2 inches (5.1 cm) in height, you can fertilize them with a water-soluble nitrogen fertilizer. Be careful not to over-fertilize, you only need about 1/4 of a cup for every 25 feet (7.6 m) of growing space.
- Once the plants have established themselves, they do not need as much water. You should aim to keep the soil damp, but not soggy, as cilantro is a dry climate herb
Prevent overcrowding. Stop the cilantro plants from becoming overcrowded by thinning the seedlings when the cilantro is 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) tall. Pull out the smaller plants and leave the strongest ones to grow larger, allowing 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) between each plant. The smaller plants can be used in cooking and eaten.
- You can also prevent weeds from growing by spreading some much around the base of the plants as soon as they are visible above the soil
Harvest the cilantro. Harvest cilantro by cutting off individual leaves and stems from the base of the plant, near ground level, when the stems are 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) tall. Use the fresh, new shoots in cooking, not the older, ferny-type leaves which can taste bitter.
- Don’t cut off more than one third of the leaves at one time, as this can weaken the plant.
- Once you have harvested the leaves, the plant will continue to grow for at least two or three more cycles.
In a Pot
Select an appropriate pot. Choose a flower pot or container that’s at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) wide and 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) deep. Cilantro does not take kindly to being moved, so the pot needs to be big enough to contain the full grown plant
Plant the seeds. Fill the pot with some fast-draining soil. You can mix in some fertilizer too, if you like. Moisten the soil with a little water until it’s just damp, not soggy. Sprinkle the seeds lightly over the soil to disperse evenly. Cover with another 1⁄4inch (0.6 cm) of soil.
Place the pot in a sunny spot. Cilantro needs full sun to grow, so place it in a sunny window-sill or conservatory. The seeds should germinate within 7 to 10 days.
Keep moist. Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle to lightly mist the soil. If you pour water onto the soil, it might displace the seeds.
Harvest the cilantro. Once the stems of the cilantro reach 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in length, it is ready to be harvested. Cut up to 2/3 of the leaves each week, as this will encourage the plant to keep growing. This way, it is possible to harvest four crops of cilantro from a single pot.
- Water the seedlings regularly throughout the growing season. They require about 1 inch of water per week for best growth.
- Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart so that they have room to develop healthy leaves.
- Once the plants are established, they do not need as much water per week. Keep them moist, but be careful not to overwater them.
- Fertilize once or twice during the growing season with nitrogen fertilizer. Apply ¼ cup of fertilizer per 25 feet of row. Be sure not to over-fertilizer the plants.
- To help prevent weeds, mulch around the plants as soon as they are visible above the soil. You can also till shallowly to help prevent root damage from weeds.
- Fungal wilt
- Leaf hoppers
- To control for insects, use insecticidal soap once they are spotted under leaves.
Clean up debris and spent plants to avoid wilt and mildew.
A common problem with cilantro is its fast growing cycle. As mentioned above, it will not grow properly in the heat of summer. Grow so that you harvest in in mild climates
- The health benefits of coriander include its use in the treatment of skin inflammation, high cholesterol levels, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, anemia, indigestion, menstrual disorders, smallpox, conjunctivitis, skin disorders, and blood sugar disorders, while also benefiting eye care.
- Consuming coriander has been shown to positively reduce blood pressure in many patients suffering from hypertension.
- As a rich source of calcium, coriander is of great value for people who want to protect the integrity of their bones.
- Coriander, due to the rich aroma from its essential oils, helps in the proper secretion of enzymes and digestive juices in the stomach, thereby stimulating digestion and peristaltic motion.
- Due the stimulating effect of coriander on the endocrine glands, the secretion of insulin is increased from pancreas which subsequently increases the insulin level in the blood.