Herb gardens are quite popular these days, especially since fresh herbs can really pack a punch to all of your favorite family dinners. Many people grow plants like basil, oregano, and garlic right in their backyards, so they can add fresh flavor into their recipes every night.
If you’re starting your own herb garden, though, you may want to start with a simple plant like cilantro that works well in a variety of dishes. But what happens if you don’t know how to grow cilantro? Don’t worry, it’s actually not as hard as you may think!
Growing Your Own Cilantro
Although many novice gardeners don’t know how to grow cilantro, it’s actually not as hard as you may think. In fact, cilantro is one of the easiest herbs out there to grow, plus it will do well in a wide range of climates.
How to Grow Cilantro from Seeds
Cilantro is a relatively easy herb to grow directly from seeds. In fact, it’s one of the fastest herbs to grow from seed because the seeds germinate in just 7 to 10 days. This means you don’t need to worry about starting your cilantro indoors before transferring it out into the garden. Instead, you can simply head out to the garden or choose a pot and prepare the space for planting.
Cilantro requires approximately 3 to 4 weeks from planting to harvest, which means it grows quickly. However, cilantro doesn’t do well in excessively warm temperatures, so it’s best to plant it in the spring or fall so you can avoid the summer heat. You can also harvest leaves from your cilantro multiple times each season, which makes it a great plant to start early in the growing season so you can enjoy it for more time.
Before planting your cilantro seeds, prepare the soil by mixing in fertilizer or compost at least 18 inches deep into the dirt. After mixing, rake the soil smooth, and then create small holes one-quarter of an inch deep in the soil to plant the seeds. Be sure to space the seeds 6 to 8 inches apart so that you allow ample room for the individual cilantro plants to grow.
Maintaining Cilantro Plants
Cilantro is a fairly easy herb to grow, but it does require a fair amount of sunlight and water in order to grow. Therefore, you should make sure you place your cilantro plant in a location that will receive nearly direct sunlight with only a bit of shade. Also, once your cilantro is planted, make sure the soil remains moist and well-drained. This will ensure that your cilantro grows quickly and provides a large amount of leaves to harvest.
Cilantro will bolt, or develop seeds, more quickly in warmer climates. For this reason, gardeners in the South should pay careful attention to the heat exposure and direct sunlight their plants receive in the warmer months of the year. You may even need to find ways to provide shade in the hottest parts of the day if you notice that the heat is impacting your cilantro’s growth.
To maximize your cilantro’s foliage, you can pinch back the plants an inch or two while they’re still young. This will encourage the plants to grow out more fully, which will give you more to harvest once the growing season ends. Also, be sure to remove any flower heads as soon as they appear so the plant directs its attention to the leaves themselves, not the flowers or seedlings.
Because of its strong scent, cilantro plants rarely experience damage from pests. However, cilantro can experience two diseases: leaf spots and mildew. Luckily, both of these issues can be avoided by simply providing the right amounts of water, sunlight, and space for your cilantro plants. Just remember that the soil should remain moist, but not oversaturated or muddy, and your cilantro should be fine.
Harvesting Your Cilantro
Cilantro leaves taste great in a variety of recipes, especially Mexican cuisine and Thai dishes. It’s a great staple to have on hand, especially if you like to pack lots of flavor in your dinners throughout the week. However, it’s important to know how to best harvest your cilantro so you can enjoy this flavorful, leafy herb in all of your favorite meals.
Harvesting Your Cilantro Plant
Cilantro is a fairly easy herb to harvest, and most gardeners can obtain multiple harvests within a single growing season, especially in the spring and fall. When harvesting your cilantro, cut the leafy stems one-third of the way down. Be sure to leave enough of the plant so that it can continue to grow without any problems.
After you harvest your cilantro, plan to use the leaves when fresh. You’ll want to use the new, upper leaves in your recipes over the more mature, ferny leaves. If you need to extend your cilantro’s shelf life, consider wrapping the leaves in a damp paper towel and storing it in the refrigerator or cutting apart the leaves and tightly sealing in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Regardless, don’t dry your cilantro like you would with other herbs—this plant doesn’t maintain its flavor when dried.
Sometimes, people actually use cilantro plants for their seeds, which are often called coriander. In fact, many recipes will actually call for coriander seeds to add a bit of spice to the dish.
If you’d like to harvest coriander seeds, cut the top of your cilantro’s stems just as the seedpods begin to turn brown and crack open. Place your seed pods in a bag and allow them to sit in a dark, cool space with adequate ventilation for several days.
Once your seeds are ready, you can roll the pods in your hands to release the seeds and collect them in a small container. Then you can add the whole seeds or crushed powder into your favorite recipes like relishes or curries that call for coriander seeds.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and grow some cilantro in your garden this fall or spring so you can enjoy this savory, spicy herb in all of your favorite recipes!
Garlic is another great option to add flavor to recipes. Learn how to grow them here!