Grow Your Own Fresh Cilantro


Cilantro ( Coriander) - Coriandrum sativum

Grow Your Own Fresh Cilantro

Cilantro has become a popular herb in the culinary world. First of all, let’s get the confusion regarding names out of the way. Many people interchange the words Cilantro and Coriander. Cilantro is actually the fresh leaves, stems and roots of the plant. All parts are edible; flowers included. Cilantro has a slightly tart, spicy, lemon and peppery taste. Coriander refers to the dried seeds of the Cilantro plant. These seeds are ground into a spice that is peppery in taste without the lemon flavor. Coriander is an ingredient of curry powder. Cilantro and Coriander are used in all types of ethnic dishes such as Mexican, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian recipes.

Like most herbs, Cilantro has been grown all over the world for centuries. It was even found in Tutankhamun’s tomb! Cilantro was introduced to North America by the English Colonies in the 1600’s.

Cilantro is the type of herb that you either love it or hate it. Some people liken the taste to soap and surprisingly, there is research showing liking or disliking cilantro is in part genetically pre-determined and is shared within families!

The one thing we can all agree on is that the health benefits of eating Cilantro are endless. The roots are used to make teas and herbal medicines. The leaves and stems help to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Cilantro is full of antioxidants and used to calm many stomach and intestinal issues; detoxes the liver and improves kidney function. It is high in vitamins K, E, C and A.

In our zone 3 climate, Cilantro is an annual herb. It is part of the Apiaceae family which includes parsley, carrot, fennel and dill. It can be grown in containers or sowed directly into the garden. Seeds germinate in seven to ten days.

Full Sun - If possible, provide part sun in the afternoon. One way to do this is to plant taller veggies beside your Cilantro to give it some afternoon shade.

Soil: Light, well- drained soil. If you mix it with some compost you do not have to fertilize. Otherwise apply a water soluble vegetable fertilizer a month after planting. Plant after the last frost, as cilantro cannot tolerate frost at all. You can direct seed, start your own seed in late winter or buy cilantro in pre-started 4 inch pots.

Height: 30-45 cm. Spread: 30-45 cm. Fast growing.

Watering: Keep the soil moist while the plants or seeds are establishing. After it is well rooted, water when the soil is somewhat dry. Do not let it dry out totally. Water at ground level. Please note that container plantings will dry out quicker than in-ground garden plants.

Flowers: Tall white/pinkish umbels. Much taller than the main plant.


Cilantro grows best in the spring and fall when the weather is cooler. It is quick to bolt (go to flower and seed) during the heat of summer. Once the plant flowers, it will be past harvesting as the leaves will be bitter. To avoid this for at least awhile, you can succession plant a few seeds every week but eventually the summer heat will take over. You can also nip the flower stems off which will give you a bit of extra time to harvest. To collect seed, let the plant go to flower, produce seed and dry seed heads in a paper bag. They will split open and naturally drop into the bag. Once dry, keep the seed in a dark, dry container. The seed can be ground when needed. Cilantro seed will remain viable for 5 years. Germination occurs in seven to ten days.

Pinch your cilantro back in the early stages of growth to create a bushier plant. When it reaches close to 20 cm. in height, you can begin to harvest the leaves/stems. If you are making a fresh dish such as guacamole or salsa you can add the leaves at any time. Put the harvested leaves with stems into a glass with a little bit of water. Cover the glass loosely with a plastic bag and it can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days. In hot dishes, it is more flavorful when added just before serving.

There are varying opinions regarding freezing and drying Cilantro but I feel why not give it a try to form your own opinion! Do not wash Cilantro leaves before freezing. Lay them in a single layer in a zip-lock freezer bag. When ready to add them to a recipe, wash them at that time. You can dry a whole young plant by hanging it upside down in a warm room. Store crushed leaves in a waterproof dark container. Let me know what you think in the comments below or in future blog articles.

Recommended Named Varieties: All are slow to bolt.

‘Leisure’, ‘Costa Rica’, ‘Santo Long Standing’

Cilantro is available in seed packets and Mr. Fothergills offers Cilantro Micro Greens in seed packages as well. These would be very interesting to try!

Vietnamese Coriander – Persicaria odorata. Used in SE Asian and NE Indian cuisine. Has a herbal, grassy green flavor with citrus notes followed by a zingy pepper kick. Also known as Vietnamese and Asian mint. It is non- invasive.

FYI: Do not incorporate coffee grounds in or on the soil around Cilantro. .

Cilantro has a tap root like a short, white carrot. It requires deep soil to grow well and a pH of 6.2 – 6.8. When growing in containers allow at least a 15 cm. depth of container so the tap root grows unobstructed.

Keep Cilantro seeds (Coriander) out of the compost. It tends to self-seed readily.

Pollinators are attracted to cilantro flowers.

If you have any tips on growing cilantro I would be very interested to hear them! Please feel free to comment below!

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