Cilantro is an annual herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. An essential ingredient in Mexican salsa, cilantro is a popular addition to in cuisines worldwide. The fresh leaves add a distinctive flavor to salads, soups, and stews. Coriander seeds (cilantro seeds) are critical components of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes and even desserts.
For an anti-imflammatory, antioxidant herb, it’s hard to beat cilantro. Fresh cilantro leaf is a great source of vitamins K, C, A, folic acid, minerals, essential volatile oils, and antioxidant polyphenolic flavonoids. Both leaf and seed are phyto-nutrient dense and offer unique medicinal properties. Cilantro has also been found to gently help the body shed heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum and lead.
Shiny, finely divided leaves are lovely at the front border of a garden or in containers. The tall flower stems attract beneficial pollinators before producing delicious coriander seeds.
Cilantro is a cool-weather crop that quickly goes to seed in hot summer weather. Sow seeds directly in the garden after the last frost, planting them 1/2″ deep and 2″ apart. They may be slow to germinate, but you can speed it up by soaking them overnight before planting. Thin plants to 8″ to 10″ apart. Sow seeds every two weeks for a continuous harvest.
As plants mature, they send up a flower stalk and produce coriander seeds. Seeds are ready to harvest about 3 to 4 months after sowing.
Harvest & Keeping
Begin harvesting leaves in about 40 to 50 days. To prolong harvest, snip off the central flower stalks as soon as they appear. Sprigs of cilantro keep well in the refrigerator standing a jar of clean water. Change the water daily. Or store fresh leaves in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag in the fridge for several days.
For coriander, cut the stems when the seeds turn from green to tan. Bundle the stems and hang upside down in an air, dry place until the seeds are dry and brown. Rub the seeds from the stems, remove the debris and store in a jar.
Coriander seeds may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to other plants in the parsley family, such as dill, aniseed, caraway and fennel. High doses of coriander can increase sensitivity to the sun.