Cilantro is an herb that produces two distinctively different herbal flavors. The green leaves and stems are known as cilantro and the seeds are known as coriander. It looks a lot like parsley, and therefore can often be confused with it. But cilantro has more rounded leaves while parsley leaves are more pointed. Overall, cilantro has a stronger scent and taste. It’s easy to grow this double-producing herb indoors or outdoors. Use these tips on how to grow cilantro.
Cilantro can be grown year-round when planted in a container. Indoors or outdoors, the plant will need a sunny location to thrive. Place a container on a sunny windowsill and for the outdoors; select a location in a full sun location. Cilantro does best in cool weather with a good amount of sunlight each day, and the best times for planting it are during spring and fall. It can tolerate some mild frost, but keep it from temperatures that are too low.
Start From Seeds
Cilantro does not like to be transplanted so it’s best to start the herb plant from seeds. Prepare the outdoor soil by mixing in some compost, and loosen the soil to 12-18 inches deep. The plant is not choosy about soil and will accept most types of soil as long as it drains well. Plant seeds every 2 weeks for a continual harvest throughout the summer. The seeds usually sprout in about 7-10 days, but sometimes it can take several weeks.
Cilantro develops a very long taproot and will need a 12-inch deep container or more when it’s being grown in a container. If you are growing cilantro as a plant and not from seed, it is best to start growing it indoors before the end of the frost season and then move it outdoors at a more optimal moment.
- Water herb plant when soil begins to get dry on top. Water at soil level.
- Fertilize the soil when the plants reach about 2 inches in height but don’t overdo it.
- When the plant is 6-inches tall, pinch the top out to force the plant to develop more lateral stems and more cilantro leaves.
- Pruning the plants is one good way to help them grow better and live longer
- Keep the flower spikes pinched off unless you want coriander seeds.
Common Pests of Cilantro
Some types of insects like to feed on cilantro and can pose a problem. Among these pests are the cabbage looper worm, aphids, beet armyworm, and fungus gnats.
- Cabbage looper – A type of moth whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of cilantro and other plants. The caterpillars can be removed by hand in the morning and late evenings.
- Aphids – Green peach aphids can multiply quickly and cause an infestation. Use a homemade pesticide spray and spray the plants where you spot the aphids.
- Beet Armyworm – Also called Asparagus Fern Caterpillar. The larvae of beet armyworms can ruin crops and plants quickly. Hand removal is the simplest way of getting rid of the caterpillars. Their presence can be detected by the silvery film coatings they leave behind on leaves. Neem oil is effective against these pests.
- Fungus Gnats – Fungus gnats can infest cilantro grown indoors, and are often a sign that your soil is too moist. The larvae attack the roots of plants, damaging them. Treatment is to simply stop watering your plants for a while, to let your soil dry out.
Cilantro is ready to be harvested when the plants are about 8-9 inches in height. The bottom leaves of the cilantro plant will be tough so harvest the top leaves by snipping them off. Harvest the outer leaves and leave the inner leaves untouched. Avoid cutting more than 30% of the leaves; otherwise your plant could die. If grown and harvested optimally, you can obtain 3 or 4 cycles of harvest from your cilantro plants. Use the leaves fresh or dried.
To harvest coriander seeds, allow the plant to flower and develop seeds pods. When the seed pods turn brown, snip off the flower spikes with their seed pods intact and place the stems in a paper bag for 2-weeks. The coriander seeds will dry and can then be harvested by squeezing the seed pods. You can then toast and grind them into coriander spice.
You will find the small, frilly green leaves are fragrant and have a citrusy flavor. The seeds are crunchy when left whole, and can be ground into powder if desired. The flavor of coriander (seeds) is sweet, floral, and citrusy.
Cilantro Health Benefits
Cilantro is loaded with nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like potassium, iron, manganese, and magnesium. It has long been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
However, cilantro is better known for its health benefits, such as lowering your risks of heart disease, lowering blood sugar levels, being good for the eyesight, having strong anti-bacterial properties, aiding digestion, and reducing the risk of brain ailments like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Cilantro also has anti blood clotting properties, so much so that you are advised not to have too much of it if you are going to undergo surgery.
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