With bright green, fern-textured stems, cilantro holds its own in beds or pots. Every part of cilantro promises a taste treat: spicy leaves, pungent seeds (known as coriander), and tangy roots. Most gardeners grow cilantro for the foliage, which boasts a citrusy bite that enlivens Mexican and Thai cooking. Coriander is used in pastries, sausage, and pickling spice. Cilantro thrives in cool weather and grows best in spring and fall. Pick up a few transplants at the garden center or start your own plants from seed.
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Cilantro Care Must-Knows
Cilantro grows best in light, well-drained soil and full sun or part shade. Cilantro is a cool-season plant that does best at temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant it in mid-spring as soon as the soil begins to warm. Sow seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart in full sun. Cover them with ¼ inch of fine soil. Keep the seed bed moist as seedlings emerge—roughly 10 to 20 days from planting. Sow seeds every few weeks until midsummer for a continuous crop of fresh leaves. Cilantro is tough to transplant; sow seeds directly in their permanent growing location.
Cilantro is just as easy to grow in a container as it is in the ground. Fill a container with a quality potting mix and plant two or three cilantro plants for several weeks of ample harvest. You can also direct-seed cilantro in a container. Plant it alongside basil, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, and dill and enjoy a patio garden filled with fresh flavors right outside your kitchen door.
Maintain a steady supply of cilantro's spicy goodness by sowing seeds every two or three weeks. Keep plants at their leafy stage longer by watering them well and thinning seedlings to 3 to 4 inches apart soon after they emerge. Crowded plants and those growing in dry soil are more likely to send up flower stalks; when they appear, flavor is past its peak. Pinch plants frequently to keep flowers at bay.
Cilantro plants grow quickly in cool weather. Enjoy an autumn crop of cilantro by sowing seeds in September. Water plants regularly to maintain a moist seed bed. Continue seeding every few weeks in fall in mild winter areas. Cilantro can handle light frost.
Pick leaves as needed, starting on the outside of the plant. Lower leaves offer the most pungent flavor. To store foliage, place stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator. Cooking diminishes flavor; add leaves to cooked dishes just before serving. Flowers are edible but if allowed to set seed will produce coriander. Harvest seed heads when color changes from green to brown. Hang seed stems upside down in paper bags to dry; bags will catch seeds. Store seeds in airtight containers. Crush coriander with a mortar to release full flavor.
More Varieties of Cilantro
Coriandrum sativum 'Delfino' has fernlike foliage on a high-yielding branched plant. This variety has a delicate flavor. It tolerates warm weather and is slow to bolt. Zones 3-11