How To Grow Coriander and Cilantro
Both Coriander and Cilantro are important ingredients in the cuisines of India, Mexico, Africa, Russia, China, Spain and Asia. Technically, the name Coriander is used to refer to the plant itself, while the leaves are called Cilantro. However, the terminology might depend on where you are. Here in the Netherlands for example, we use Coriander to refer to the leaves. But in most of the world, Coriander refers to the plant and specifically its seeds. Whereas, Cilantro is used as a fresh herb, Coriander seeds are added to dishes either as whole seeds, or in powder form after it has been grounded.
To keep things simple, I will be referring to the plant as Coriander throughout the rest of the article.
Coriander is notorious for being disliked by many people. Depending on your genes, Coriander may not taste as nice as it does for others, but instead will have a soap-like flavour. This all depends on variations in your smell receptors. Of course, this does go for other foods as well, but Coriander is an extreme example of a food that can taste entirely different depending on your genetic make-up.
If you are one of those people that have an insurmountable aversiont to Coriander, you may want to check out our articles on other herbs. But if you don’t, then read on to get started growing your own Coriander at home!
Getting Started Growing Coriander
The best period to grow Coriander is during late spring and autumn, when the weather is cool and moist. In hot weather, the plant will start to produce seeds more quickly, making the leaves lose their flavour.
It is recommended to sow small amounts every 3 weeks, in order to ensure the constant supply of leaves throughout the summer season. During late spring and autumn, your plants will produce the most leaves.
Well-drained and fertile soil is required for sowing Coriander. If you are growing Coriander in your garden, it is best to sow about 5 seeds in a group, with a spacing of circa 20 cm. If you are growing the plants in a pot, make sure it is about 25cm in depth, so that the roots have enough space. A group of 5 seeds should suffice. It is important to water your Coriander plants to ensure it does not dry out. If flowers start growing between the leaves, remove them immediately.
After about 3 or 4 weeks, your plant should be ready for harvest. The seeds will take a little longer: approximately 45 days.
Harvesting Your Coriander / Cilantro
Coriander is a short-lived plant, therefore it is important to harvest regularly to ensure the plant grows new leaves. This way you will be able to prolong its lifespan. On top of that, regular harvesting will prevent the plant from bolting. Once this happens, your leaves will lose their flavour and removing the flowers will not help anymore.
Once your plant is ready for harvest, you can start by cutting of the larger leaves. For the smaller leaves, it is recommended to cut them off just above the crown, to about 1-½ to 2 inches. Generally, you should be able to cut the plant to about one third of its size, leaving the rest of the plant to produce new leaves.
Harvesting regularly is recommended and this means you could end up with more leaves than you can use. Of course, it is always nice to share some of your fresh harvest with friends or family. Otherwise, you can store your fresh leaves for later by setting the Coriander upright in a glass of water, covering the leaves with a small plastic bag. You could also choose to dry your leaves or freeze them in a plastic zipper bag.
The great thing about Coriander is that you can also harvest the seeds. It is best to do this just before the plant would otherwise release its seeds onto the soil. For this, you should wait until most of the seeds are brown.
Ideally, you would harvest the seeds on a dry day. Cut off the seed heads and hang them upside down in a brown paper bag to dry further. Once they are completely dry, the seeds will fall out from the heads. You can store the seeds in a glass jar, preferably in a cool and dry location.
Coriander is known to have quite a distinct taste that can be off-putting for some people. However, some people swear by it and it all depends on your personal taste.
It has a hint of citrus and has a slightly nutty taste, which goes well with beans, lentils and rice.
Coriander is a very popular and versatile herb and is used all over the world. The leaves are a key part of the Mexican cuisine and often used in Asian dishes, while the seeds are popular in the Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. You can add two distinct flavours to your dishes by using both the seeds and the leaves of the same plant. The seeds can be grinded to a spice, while the leaves can be chopped or used as garnish.
Both the seeds and the leaves of the Coriander plant are know to be benficial to your health. It is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and protein and contains dietary fiber, manganese, iron and magnesium. It can help to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels is a known home remedy for treating stomach issues such as diarrhoea.
All in all, Coriander is an easy herb to grow at home and will get you results in no time. If you sow regularly, you can enjoy fresh Coriander all year through and incorporate it in your dishes whenever you feel like adding something extra.