- All About Cilantro
- How to Grow Cilantro
- History of Cilantro (Coriander)
- Should I Plant Cilantro Seeds or Plants?
- Cultivating Cilantro Seeds and Plants
- Cilantro Growing Tips
- Growing Cilantro in Containers
- What Insects & Diseases Affect Cilantro?
- Cilantro Harvesting Tips
- Cilantro Recipes & Storage
How to Grow Cilantro and Harvest Coriander Seeds
- How to Grow Cilantro and Harvest Coriander Seeds
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- SECTION 20 – CONTACT INFORMATION
- Harvesting Coriander
- Get to Know Cilantro and Coriander
- How to Plant Cilantro
- How to Grow Cilantro
- Troubleshooting Cilantro
- How to Harvest Cilantro and Coriander
- Cilantro and Coriander in the Kitchen
- Preserving and Storing Cilantro and Coriander
- Propagating Cilantro
- Cilantro and Coriander Varieties to Grow
All About Cilantro
How to Grow Cilantro
Cilantro needs full sun or light shade in southern zones since it bolts quickly in hot weather. It grows best in a well-drained, moist soil. Cilantro plants should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. To harvest fresh cilantro all season, make successive sowings every 2 to 3 weeks starting in late spring.
History of Cilantro (Coriander)
Cilantro, has been used for many centuries in the cooking of Mexico, India, Africa, Spain, Russia, China, many areas of Asia – especially Thailand, and the Middle East. It is thought to be native to North Africa or the Middle East. In addition to its many culinary uses, cilantro seeds were used medicinally, especially as a sleep and digestion aid.
Cilantro vs Coriander
Should I Plant Cilantro Seeds or Plants?
Cilantro is best grown by directly sowing seed in the garden for two reasons. It grows so quickly it needs no head start indoors, and since cilantro develops a taproot, it doesn’t like being transplanted.
However, if you can’t wait to harvest some fresh cilantro leaves in late spring, about 2 weeks before the average last frost date start cilantro indoors in peat pots that can be directly transplanted into the garden. Seeds germinate in about 7 to 10 days.
Cultivating Cilantro Seeds and Plants
Prepare soil by adding some compost or other organic matter to the planting area and working it into the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches. Rake the area smooth. Sow cilantro seeds 1/4-inch deep directly in the garden in late spring or early summer. Sow seeds or thin to 6 to 8 inches apart in rows spaced about 1 foot apart. Provide plenty of moisture and feed cilantro plants with a water-soluble fertilizer when they reach about 2 inches in height.
Cilantro Growing Tips
When growing cilantro, the aim is to maximize foliage. Pinch back young cilantro plants an inch or so to encourage fuller, bushier plants. Snip off the top part of the main stem as soon as it appears to be developing flower buds or seedpods. Cutting off the flower heads redirects the cilantro plants’ energy back into leaf, and not flower or seed production.
Watch the plants carefully as the weather gets hotter. Cilantro has a short life cycle and bolts quickly (develops seed) in hot weather. Once cilantro sets seeds, the plant quickly starts to degrade.
If seeds are allowed to develop, you’ll notice how easily cilantro self-sows when you see delicate, lacy-leaf seedlings growing up around mature plants.
Growing Cilantro in Containers
What Insects & Diseases Affect Cilantro?
Cilantro rarely has serious problems with insects or diseases. In fact, probably due to cilantro’s strong scent, it is considered an insect repellant. Two diseases that could be a problem are leaf spot and powdery mildew. Leaf spot appears as small yellow spots that turn into larger brown spots. Excess moisture and poor air circulation most often cause the problem. Prevent leaf spot by making sure cilantro plants are grown in a well-drained soil, are not over watered, and are thinned out enough to allow good air circulation around them.
Cilantro Harvesting Tips
The leaves can be cut at any time. Use the upper, new, finely cut leaves in cooking, but not the mature, lower ferny-type leaves. Cilantro is not normally saved and dried like other culinary herbs since, as stated, it loses almost its entire flavor when dried.
The large coriander seeds are easy to harvest and handle. Harvest on a dry day. Cut the top of the stems when the seedpods begin to turn brown and crack if pressed. Make sure pods are harvested before they release seeds into the garden. Once stems are cut, place seedpods in a paper bag so seeds will be caught. Finish the ripening process for a few weeks in a dark, well-ventilated, cool place. Pods can be shaken or rolled around in your hands to release the seeds.
If you’re growing the plant for seed, don’t bother fertilizing since that may delay flowering and thus seed production.
Cilantro Recipes & Storage
- 8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup green Anaheim or New Mexico chilies, chopped
- 2 serrano chilies, seeded and minced
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and thoroughly mix. Allow mixture to remain a little chunky. Or, all ingredients can be simply mixed together well and served in a chunkier style. This salsa tastes best if it is refrigerated for several hours before serving.
- 2 large ripe avocados, skinned and mashed
- 1/2 cup finely minced onion
- 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro (add a bit more if you really like cilantro)
- 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
- Juice of 2 limes
- Salt to taste
- Mix all ingredients and serve immediately.
To have a taste of fresh cilantro after your plants are finished, make cilantro butter. It freezes well.
- Combine 4 parts butter to 2 parts finely chopped cilantro, and 1/2 part fresh lemon juice.
- Mix well and freeze.
- When thawed, it can be used as a spread or in sauces.
Cilantro butter is delicious on steamed vegetables and good with a little salt and lime juice on hot corn-on-the-cob.
How to Grow Cilantro and Harvest Coriander Seeds
Cilantro is essential in Pad Thai — Thailand’s best-known noodle dish — a delicious, spicy-sweet mix of rice noodles, tofu, shrimp or chicken, and eggs, flavored with fish sauce, garlic, chilies and ginger (in addition to cilantro), and topped with peanuts. When used as a topping for rice noodles or in Oriental dipping sauces, cilantro and roasted peanuts often are chopped together.
Down Mexico way, cilantro always brings salsa to life, whether it’s tomato-based, with avocados and beans, or fruit-based, using peaches, mangoes or even apples. For tamer palates, a bit of minced cilantro mixed into equal parts of butter and cream cheese makes a wonderful herb spread. Minced leaves stirred into sour cream make a refreshing accent for chili or other spicy soups. Add cilantro to cooked dishes, such as rice pilafs or beans, at the last minute, to preserve its color and flavor.
Coriander seeds, on the other hand, respond well to heat. When cooking with them, roast the seeds first in a warm, dry pan until you can smell their nutty aroma; the roasting only takes a few minutes, but it produces an absolutely divine scent. Then, coarsely grind or chop the roasted seeds with a heavy knife or a mortar and pestle. A few crushed coriander seeds make a welcome addition to any curry dish and provide an ideal accompaniment to lentils, rice, mushrooms, tomatoes and many other vegetables. Left whole and coated with sugar rather than roasted, the seeds make a dessert-type treat called coriander comfit.
Cilantro grows easily from seeds, or you can buy bunches of fresh cilantro and jars of dried coriander seeds in the produce and spice sections of most supermarkets. Cut stems of cilantro will keep in the refrigerator for several days in a plastic bag (clip off the stem ends and set the sprigs in a glass of water before you slip on the plastic bag). You also can freeze leaves that have been rinsed and patted dry. When frozen, cilantro leaves retain much of their flavor; when dried, leaves lose flavor. Store dry coriander seeds whole, in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place; they will keep for more than a year.
How to Grow Cilantro and Harvest Coriander Seeds
A fast-growing annual, cilantro thrives in cool weather. You will find seeds widely available on retail seed racks and in mail-order catalogs. Among named varieties, “Santo” is a little slower to bolt than the species (wild) cilantro, and “Festival” and “Janta” have large leaves that help them grow quickly to a mature size. When sown in fall, established plants of any variety often survive winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture Zones 7 and 8. Where hard freezes are frequent, the plants need the protection of a plastic tunnel. In all climates, sow seeds at least twice a year where you want the plants to grow — first thing in spring and again in late summer, for a fall crop. Choose a sunny spot, and use only a little fertilizer — too much can make the leaves taste bland.
For quick germination, soak seeds in water overnight before planting out; bury the seeds about an inch deep. If too many seedlings appear, thin the plants to about 5 inches apart. Cilantro can be transplanted if the operation is conducted with minimal disturbance to the roots, but this plant grows so well when sown directly into the garden that starting seeds indoors is hardly worth the trouble. Begin picking leaves as needed when the plants are about 6 weeks old. Soon afterward (especially in spring, when days quickly become longer and warmer), the shape of the leaves becomes very thin and feathery, and the plants suddenly grow taller and prepare to flower (the process known as “bolting”). If you like edible flowers, try some of the tiny white blossoms sprinkled onto salads.
To harvest coriander seeds, cut the stems when about half of the seeds have changed from green to grayish-tan. Gather the stems together with a rubber band and hang the bunch upside-down in a warm, dry place for about two weeks. To glean (harvest) the seeds, place a paper bag beneath the bunch and gently tickle the seeds from the stems. Dump the seeds into a dry pan, sort by hand and store in airtight glass jars until you’re ready to plant or eat them.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
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If you grow cilantro for its leaves and have never let any of it go to seed, you are missing out on Chapter 2 of this herb. Cilantro will flower (with a fragrance only its mother could love, maybe) then form seed pods. After the seeds pods have dried (in situ is recommended) gather them from the garden. Spread out a large sheet of paper and rub the pods off the stems.
This makes a big mess and much of the brittle, dry stems get rubbed off as well. What comes next is a sort of winnowing–gather the pods and stems into a pile. Most of the stem fragments gather at the top and can be lifted off. I do this a few times until only seed pods are left, almost.
I keep picking over them until they are truly stem free and dump the pods out onto a towel. The small, dusty fragments will fall into the terry cloth of the towel and get trapped. I skim off the seeds and do this another time or two on fresh toweling until the towel comes clean.
Store in a dry jar with a tight lid.
Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.
Learn how to grow cilantro and coriander in minutes. Cilantro and coriander are the same plants. The herb leaf called cilantro and the herb seed called coriander grow on the same plant. Cilantro-coriander is a warm-weather annual. Sow cilantro in the garden in spring two to three weeks after the last expected frost date. Parsley-like cilantro leaves can be snipped for fresh use as soon as the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall; the round-ribbed coriander seed will be ready for harvest about 100 days after sowing. Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley.
Get to Know Cilantro and Coriander
- Botanical name and family: Coriandrum sativum (Apiaceae—parsley family)
- Origin: Europe, Asia Minor, Russia
- Type of plant: Herbaceous annual
- Growing season: Grow cilantro in spring and autumn; hot days and short nights of summer will cause flowering and seed formation.
- Growing zones: Zones 3-10
- Hardiness: Cilantro is resistant to cold; it tolerates some heat. Grow cilantro in just moist soil in tropical to temperate climates during the cooler parts of the year, Cilantro does not tolerate hot temperatures; it bolts rapidly in the heat.
- Plant form and size: Cilantro grows 10 to 25 inches tall; cilantro grows a central stem to 18 inches high with an umbrella-shaped cluster of tiny pinkish-white flowers; side branches with secondary flower clusters grow from the main stem.
- Leaves: Young leaves growing from the main stem are oval with toothed edges; older leaves growing on the side branches are feathery and finely divided.
- Flowers: Cilantro has small delicate white to pale pink flowers that grow on flat clusters; there is one central flowering stem that grows upright from the taproot; branches grow out from the stem.
- Bloom time: Cilantro blooms spring to late summer.
- Seeds: Small round, ribbed, beige-colored seeds follow flowers in late summer. Seeds look like white peppercorns and are lemon-scented.
How to Plant Cilantro
- Best location: Plant cilantro in full sun; it will tolerate light shade.
- Soil preparation: Cilantro grows best in well-drained but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Prepare planting beds in advance with aged compost. Cilantro prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
- Seed starting indoors: Cilantro grows a taproot and is best sown in place outdoors. If you start seed indoors be careful not to disturb the taproot at transplanting time. Start seeds in individual pots about the time of the last spring frost for transplanting out in about four weeks. Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days.
- Seed starting outdoors: Sow seed in the garden in spring about 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost. Time late plantings so that harvest comes before the first hard frost. Cilantro will die back in freezing weather. Succession plant cilantro every two weeks for a continuous supply of leaves.
- Transplanting to the garden: Set out transplants two to three weeks after the last spring frost.
- Outdoor planting time: Direct sow cilantro outdoors after danger of frost is passed then plant every two to three weeks for a steady supply of leaves. Thin plants when they are three inches tall for permanent spacing.
- Planting depth: Sow cilantro seed ¼ to ½ inch deep.
- Spacing: Thin successful seedlings from 8 to 12 inches apart. Space rows 12 to 15 inches apart.
- How much to plant: Grow 12 cilantro plants over the course of the season for cooking and culinary use; plant successive crops every two weeks for a continuous supply of cilantro leaves. Grow 20 plants for preserving.
- Companion planting: Plant cilantro with anise, garlic, chives, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and salad burnet; but not fennel. Cilantro enhances the growth of anise. Cilantro’s blooms attract beneficial insects to the garden including parasitic wasps; the pungent smell of cilantro is said to deter aphids from nearby plants.
- Winter growing: Grow cilantro indoors in winter in a bright window or under fluorescent lights.
How to Grow Cilantro
- Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Do not let cilantro dry out. Avoid overhead watering as plants reach maturity; overhead water or rain can reduce seed yield.
- Feeding: Add aged compost to the planting bed in advance of planting cilantro. Do not fertilize at midseason. Avoid too much nitrogen or plants will sprawl.
- Care: Keep planting beds weed-free to reduce competition for nutrients and light. Tall stems may require staking. Pinching off flowers will slow bolting.
- Container growing: Cilantro can be container grown as an annual in summer or indoors in winter. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep. Cilantro produces a taproot.
- Winter growing: In cold-winter regions, over-winter cilantro in an unheated garage or covered patio.
- Pests: Nematodes can attack cilantro roots. Repel nematodes by planting marigolds nearby.
- Diseases: Anthracnose and leaf spot can attack cilantro. Spray foliage with compost tea, a natural fungicide—and foliar fertilizer.
How to Harvest Cilantro and Coriander
- When to harvest: Cilantro leaves can be harvested at any time after the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall. Plants mature 60 to 75 days after sowing. To harvest coriander seed, the plant requires 100 or more days.
- How to harvest: Snip cilantro leaves for fresh use after the plant is 6 inches tall or more. Small immature leaves have the best flavor. Pick just the top 2 to 3 inches to ensure continuous growth. Snip off the tops of stems before the plant flowers for a continued harvest of leaves. Continue picking leaves until the plant flowers.
- Seeds: Coriander seeds are harvested after cilantro flowers; the seed will be ready for harvest 2 to 3 weeks after flowering when they turn light brown. Hang stems and seed heads upside down in a paper bag in a cool, dry place. The seeds will fall into the bag as they ripen. Seeds are small, only about ⅛ inch in diameter. The ripe seed will smell spicy.
Cilantro and Coriander in the Kitchen
- Flavor and aroma: Cilantro leaves have a strong flavor that combines sage and lemon; seed taste of citrus.
- Leaves: Cilantro leaves are often used in Mexican and also Southeast Asia cooking. Mince leaves and add them to food or use them whole as a garnish. Chop fresh leaves and serve them with tomatoes, green onions, and minced garlic. Add minced leaves to sandwiches for zippy flavor. Add leaves just before serving.
- Seeds: Use coriander seeds on home-baked bread and to flavor beets, onions, sausage, clams, and potatoes. Add seeds whole or ground to marinades, salad dressings, cheese, eggs, and chili sauce. Toast seeds before adding to dishes. Dried seeds taste of citrus; they can be chewed to relieve an upset stomach.
- Roots: Cilantro roots taste like leaves with an added nutty flavor. Add fresh minced roots to salads and relishes. The cilantro-coriander root is often used in Thai cooking.
Preserving and Storing Cilantro and Coriander
- Refrigeration: Fresh cilantro leaves can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week; place the stems in water and put a plastic bag over the leaves to retain the aroma. Leaves lose their flavor and aroma when dried or frozen; so used them fresh.
- Drying: Dry coriander seeds thoroughly before using. The aroma of coriander seeds changes from unpleasant to savory as it dries. Seeds are usually scalded in hot water to protect them from insects, but hot water treated seeds cannot be planted later. Cilantro leaves can be dried on a screen in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place.
- Freezing: The flavor of cilantro leaves disappears when dried or frozen.
- Storing: Cilantro leaves are best used fresh but can be dried and stored in an airtight container. To preserve leaves, make cilantro butter, oil or vinegar (use white wine vinegar). Dried seeds can be stored for several months in an airtight container. Scald seeds before you store them to protect against insect damage in storage.
- Seed: Cilantro is propagated by seed sown in mid-spring, late summer, or early fall.
Cilantro and Coriander Varieties to Grow
- Some seed growers designate coriander for seed only or cilantro leaf only production.
Also of interest:
How to Grow Basil
How to Grow Rosemary
How to Grow Sage
How to Grow Oregano
How to Grow Mint
More tips at How to Start an Herb Garden and Growing Herbs for Cooking.