Cilantro is a very popular culinary herb that offers international appeal. The flat parsley-like leaves add a wonderful, distinctive flavour to guacamole, salsa and other Mexican recipes, while its seeds – aka coriander seeds – can be ground into a powder or used whole in many popular Indian dishes.
Growing tips and facts
Cilantro is extremely fast and easy to grow from seed. In fact, it takes only 3-4 weeks from the time the seeds are planted before you can start to harvest this versatile herb.
Like most herbs, cilantro prefers a spot in full sun, with a little afternoon shade in hot regions. It also performs best in well-drained, moist soil. Raised beds or containers are ideal locations for cilantro and other culinary herbs as long as they receive adequate water.
Cilantro is a fast grower and will bolt, or set seeds, quickly in hot weather. To extend harvests throughout the growing season, keep reseeding your garden bed or container every 2 or 3 weeks. This will ensure you have a steady supply of fresh cilantro leaves all season long.
Tips for using and preserving cilantro
To harvest cilantro, cut the leafy stems almost to ground level. For healthy, strong plants leave 2/3 of the plant intact and allow it to regenerate before harvesting again.
Cilantro doesn’t hold up well to the heat of cooking. Therefore, it is best added right at the end or in cold dishes like salsa or guacamole.
Cilantro is best enjoyed fresh, but it doesn’t last long once cut. Cut stems placed in a jar filled with water on your counter will last about a week. You can extend its life by placing the jar in the refrigerator with a sandwich bag placed loosely over the top of the leaves. Fresh cilantro can last up to 3 to 4 weeks using this method.
For longer term storage, freezing is recommended. Wash, dry and chop cilantro and toss with some olive oil. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze. Store frozen cubes in freezer bags and use the cubes as starters for salsa, guacamole or other recipes.
Drying is not recommended for cilantro because too much of the flavor is lost in the process.