Mysterious Cilantro…or is it coriander? Both! Cilantro and coriander come from the same plant. When the plant is cultivated for its pungent, aromatic leaves, it is called cilantro. When is allowed to go to seed and cultivated for its citrus-flavored seeds, it is called coriander. Two great spices all rolled up into one plant!
Cilantro is an annual grown during the cooler times of the year. Once temperatures start to steadily stay warm the plant will start to bolt. In our case here in Southern Utah that can be anywhere from the end of March to the end of May. I like to plant cilantro seed in September (zone 8) and use a light row cover through the coldest months of winter to keep it from getting ‘freezer burn’ and it will continue to grow. This way we will have fresh cilantro all winter long. I usually get a second planting in come mid-January. This way when the fall sowing has become tired out, the next session is ready to go. You can shade your cilantro to help keep it from bolting as early with some row cover, but it will bolt when it wants to bolt!
Plant your seed 1/2 inch deep in well composted soil. It will take 7-10 days to germinate at temperatures of 50-75 degrees. I prefer planting from seed more than I do from a plant. Plants will always bolt faster! Plus you get a lot more bang for your buck with direct seed sowing. Plant in full sun to part shade. Cilantro is such a great crop, because it rarely has any pest or disease problems. I don’t recommend that you fertilize much other then adding some compost, rock phosphate and greensand at the time of sowing the seed. If you give cilantro too much nitrogen, it will reduce the pungent flavor. You can sow seeds every two weeks during the spring to have an extended harvest. If you live in a cool area, your season will last through the summer. Lucky! We are just to hot here to have fresh cilantro out in the garden when the tomatoes are ripe! Keep cutting back and using the plant through the growing season. By doing this it will also slow the bolting a bit. Once your plant starts to send up seed stocks it’s time to keep an eye on it so you can collect seeds for coriander spice or replanting. After the plant goes to seed and the seeds turn yellowish-brown, bunch the seed heads together, place upside down in a paper bag, then allow seeds to ripen until they drop into the bag. Coriander seeds will stay viable for about 5 years.
Use cilantro leaves fresh in salads, salsa, marinades, stir-fries, rice, pasta, or vinegar and with fish and shellfish. Add leaves to guacamole or to Chinese soups and Asian chicken dishes. Try growing cilantro for micro greens. Use coriander seed to flavor confections, bread, cakes biscuits and mexican dishes. Don’t forget to garnish!
Here is a high-five for cilantro! 1 fistful of organic cilantro (of course you wouldn’t use anything else….Right?) a day for 10 days straight will flush your body of serious heavy metals that can accumulate in your body these days. There is a compound in cilantro that mercury (and other heavy metals) binds to and then gets released through the urine as a natural chelation technique. The body will not function properly with heavy metals and cilantro is cheap, easy, safe and could be available right in your garden. Another great reason to grow cilantro! Okay.. Not enough to get you growing it? Think about this; Cilantro will also help promote healthy liver function, lower blood sugar, ward off urinary tract infections, aid digestion and it’s an anti-inflammatory plus so many other benefits. Well you get the picture! Cilantro is not just for salsa!