Growing Cilantro, a Kitchen Garden Essential

Cilantro Varieties    |    Growing Cilantro in Containers

Original on Organic Gardening

Many people aren’t aware that cliantro seeds are also called coriander. Whatever you call it, this cool-weather annual has pale mauve flowers that bees and other pollinators just love.

Growing Guide

  • Soil preference: Coriander prefers sunny sites with well-drained soil.
  • Planting: Sow the seeds directly in the garden about ½ inch deep after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Spacing: After the seedlings appear, thin them to 4 inches apart and keep them evenly moist.
  • Fertilizing: Make sure you don’t over-fertilize this herb because too much nitrogen in the soil will produce a less-flavorful plant.

Harvesting Hints

Harvest fresh coriander leaves as needed. Coriander seeds ripen and scatter quickly, so cut the entire plant as soon as the leaves and flowers turn brown. Tie the plants in bundles, and hang them upside down with a paper bag tied securely around the flowerheads to catch the seeds as they dry.

Trivia Tidbits

Greek and Roman doctors, including Hippocrates, made medicines from coriander, but it was also prized as a spice and as an ingredient in a Roman vinegar used to preserve meat. The Chinese used coriander as far back as the Han dynasty—207 b.c. to a.d. 220. At the time, it was thought that coriander had the power to make a person immortal.

 

Cilantro Varieties

Originally from Home Guides SFGate

There is a cilantro to meet your every culinary need.

Whether you consider it soapy or sensational, cilantro is an undeniably global herb — one that seems to appear in everything from Mexican salsa to Chinese stir-fries and Brazilian sauce. Many people use the words cilantro and coriander interchangeably, but they refer to the herb and the spice, respectively, that come from the same plant. Cilantro is the leafy part of the Coriandrum sativum plant, harvested at the peak of its growing season. Coriander is the small, round seed that emerges when the plant dies back, and is used whole in pickling, or ground in baking and roasts. Several varieties of Coriandrum sativum exist, as do other members of the cilantro family.

Leaf Cilantro

Cilantro resembles parsley with its flat, delicately toothed leaves. But while parsley has a mild flavor, cilantro is most commonly described as “pungent,” though non-fans experience it as a soapy taste. For superior taste, cilantro leaves must be prevented from bolting, or going to seed. In warmer regions, such as U.S. hardiness zones 8 or higher, cilantro varieties are chosen for their slowness to bolt and turn bitter. As their names suggest, “Long Standing” and “Leisure” are two varieties known for not going to seed in the warmer months. “Jantar” is another slow-to-bolt cultivar. Plant cilantro in full sun in the cooler months, but provide shade during the dog days of summer.

Seed Coriander

Some gardeners grow the same varieties of Coriandrum sativum for seed harvesting as they would to harvest the cilantro leaves. It’s certainly possible to simply gather some cilantro leaves during the early part of the herb’s life cycle and wait for it to bolt for seed harvesting. But for faster and more plentiful yield of coriander seeds, consider a variety that is not bolt-resistant. “Santo” is a more prolific plant than the slower-bolting “Jantar,” and begins to produce seeds about 10 days earlier. Grow it under the same conditions as you would for harvesting cilantro leaves. Wait until the entire plant turns brown, then hang it upside down by its stem with a paper bag tied to the stem to catch seeds. After a few days, all of the seeds will have fallen to the bottom, and you can discard the plant and store the seeds for cooking. Use whole seeds to pickle foods, or grind them to add piquancy to baked goods, roasts and stir-fries.

Vietnamese Cilantro

For gardeners in zones 10 and higher, Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) might make a better choice than regular coriander/cilantro. That’s because Vietnamese coriander, also known as rau ram, bolts less readily than regular cilantro does. The herb’s leaves are not parsley-like, but instead narrow, smooth-edged and darker, often with black parenthesis-like markings on either side of the leaf’s vein. Young sprigs can go into fresh salads — stem and all — while cooks use chopped leaves to flavor noodles and other cooked dishes. Give Polygonum odoratum afternoon shade and plenty of moisture.

Culantro

Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) belongs to the same botanical family as cilantro; in fact, one of its common names is “spiny coriander.” Culantro is popular in Asian and Caribbean cultures. It can be used interchangeably with leaf cilantro in recipes. It grows best in shaded, moist soil. Look for seeds or seedlings in nurseries with a diverse selection, or from mail-order catalogues featuring “global” or “ethnic” selections.

Growing Cilantro In Containers

Originally from The Herb Gardener

Cilantro has a taproot, which means that it roots deeply. This makes it a poor candidate for transplanting, and pretty much also means that it needs a deep pot. The other option is to grow it in a soilless medium like a hydroponics setup.

Growing Cilantro Indoors

I’ve kept cilantro indoors successfully  in a southern facing window using a 12 inch pot planted out with shallow rooted herbs like chives. That way I maximize the use of the large pot and still manage to give the cilantro what it needs. Everybody ends up healthy and happy.

Cilantro likes a sunny location, but avoid placing it right next to a window in high heat regions, especially during the hottest part of the summer. The combination of light and heat will likely burn cilantro’s delicate leaves.  Placing plants a foot or two from the windowpane is a good precaution. If heat from the window is uncomfortable for you, it will probably damage plants that aren’t desert hardy (like cactus and succulents).

If you try keeping plants in a less light intensive spot, like in an eastern facing window, make sure you can see the shadow of your hand when the light’s shining. Bright light for around six hours a day should be adequate.

Grow Cilantro Indoors

Prefer a quality potting mix, and keep the plants evenly moist but not wet.  Cilantro will tend to get leggy, so harvest a third of the top growth at a time after young plants reach 6 to 8 inches. Harvest again when that much grows back.  You’ll be able to harvest multiple times throughout the summer months.

Potted Cilantro Outdoors

To keep cilantro on my deck in summer, I mulch the plant well, including a layer of shredded newspaper. I also improvise a water reservoir using a two-liter bottle. Here’s how:

I plug the opening at the neck of the bottle with a small piece of kitchen sponge, cut out the bottom of the bottle and then upend it into the pot. When I fill the bottle with water in the morning, it keeps the soil moist during the hottest part of the afternoon.

Another problem with cilantro is that it’s prone to bolting. To keep leaf production up and delay the onset of flowering, pinch back flowers before they fully develop and harvest leaves regularly. There are a few other bolting avoidance tips you can follow, too.

For additional cilantro information, as well as a link to a Pico de Gallo recipe (fresh veggie salsa), visit: Growing Cilantro.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow

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