Cilantro is a leafy herb with a distinctive flavor, and it's easy to harvest the plant in your garden. Also known as Chinese parsley, it appears in Mexican, Tex-Mex and Asian cuisine such as Vietnamese Gui Cuon. The seeds of the plant are known as coriander. The herb itself is short-lived and will quickly go to seed especially when the roots have reached 75 degrees. Harvest it often to keep the plant growing.
Grow your cilantro in the early spring or fall when the weather is cooler. Try growing it in full sun if possible. Plant seeds about a quarter inch deep in well-drained but moist soil. Pile mulch at the base of the plant to keep the roots cool so the plant won’t bolt, or flower, too soon. Or, try planting the cilantro plants close together so their own leaves provide shade to the roots.
Harvest your cilantro weekly, or more often if it can handle it. Cut the cilantro about a third of the way down the stalk with sharp clean scissors. Make sure not to cut everything off, reserving a few leaves on the stem will help the plant rebound. Cut from the outside when the plant has reached about six inches in height. You can generally expect to harvest two or three times before the bolting begins.
Use the leaves in your recipes once thoroughly cleaned and dried. Store the stems in the refrigerator in a glass of water if you’re not using the cilantro immediately. If you want to harvest the coriander seeds, cut stems after they’ve flowered and tie them together. Then hang them upside down for a few weeks in a dark and dry place. Once dried, place the bouquet in a brown paper bag and shake the seeds off.
Cilantro is a popular ingredient in guacamole, gazpacho, stir fries, curries and other dishes. However, as passionate as some people are about it others are equally vehement in their dislike of its particular taste. Use cilantro sparingly until you know if it’s a welcome addition to the dish or not.