Either you love it or you hate it. Cilantro is called pungent and flavorful by some, but soapy and distasteful by others. The distinct flavor of cilantro enhances the spicy cuisines of Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and North Africa. It has a reputation as being hard to grow, but you can grow cilantro successfully in containers or in the garden if you heed the follow recommendations.
Cilantro and The Problem of Bolting
Cilantro flowers and goes to seed—bolts—very quickly, especially in hot weather. Once cilantro bolts the flavor of the leaves becomes too strong, even for cilantro lovers. The solution is to plant a new crop every three or four weeks. That way you will always have fresh, young cilantro leaves to pick. Slow-bolt varieties take longer to bolt, and are worth a try.
If you let some of your cilantro form seeds you will get the herb called coriander, which has a very different flavor. You can harvest the coriander, or let the seeds mature and re-sow themselves back into your garden. You can also collect the seeds and sow them next year.
Where to Plant Cilantro
An ideal location for cilantro gets morning sun and afternoon shade. You can arrange shade in your garden by growing cilantro near taller plants that will block the full sun for part of the day. Cilantro is also an excellent container plant; you can even grow it indoors on a sunny windowsill.
How to Sow Cilantro
Because it bolts in hot weather, cilantro grows best in spring and summer. Sow seeds after the danger of frost has passed in loose, well-drained soil with added compost. Sow the seeds close together about one-quarter of an inch deep.
When they are two or three inches tall, thin them so they stand about three-to-four inches apart, although some people grow them closer together so they shade each other and keep the soil cool. Make new sowings every few weeks for a constant supply.
How to Grow Cilantro
If you keep the soil evenly moist and provide shade from hot midday sun, cilantro is a trouble-free plant. Mulching around the plants will help keep the soil cool. Cilantro rarely has insect or disease problems.
How to Harvest
You can harvest cilantro leaves at any time, but they are at their prime when the plants are six inches tall. Using small, sharp scissors, cut the outer leaves first, allowing the smaller, inner leaves to continue to grow. Harvest early in the morning. You can also harvest cilantro by pulling up the entire plant once it matures.
Because cilantro leaves lose their flavor if they are stored or dried, it’s best to use them right from the garden. Don’t wash the leaves or you will lose some of the aromatic oils that give cilantro its distinctive flavor.
Want to learn more about cilantro?
With increased interest in international cuisine, cilantro has become a very popular herb and subject of much discussion. The sites we’ve selected for you are full of fun facts, recipes, and interesting ideas.
The NY Times has a message: Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault.
Plant cilantro in summer and get coriander seeds from Oregon State University Extension Service.