How to Grow Cilantro
If you are not sure how to grow cilantro, instead of buying it, know that I was in the same position as you not so many years ago. I had always thought of cilantro as an exotic, tropical sort of herb. Because it is associated with so many exotic cuisines, like Thai food, or East Indian food, that are hot, and tropical. Growing conditions are very different than here in the northern half of British Columbia.
But a few years back, I decided that I was going to give it a go, and planted some, out in the garden, during a warm spring spell. That warm spring turned a few days later to cold and wet, as it does on the north coast, and the cilantro exploded. It positively thrived in those conditions. A short row of it was an over-production of goodness, blowing away all preconceived notions of having this lovely herb on hand.
Some fun facts about cilantro
- It will self-sow and come back year after year, popping up randomly around your garden.
- It does well in a variety of soils, as long as it is well draining and has a little compost for food.
- It produces lovely, lacy foliage and small white flowers, turning to seed, which is coriander seed. That lovely seed is sought after in cooking, known as coriander seed. The flowers and lacy foliage are an attractant for pollinators and beneficial insects. Consider planting some around your garden just for this purpose.
- It grows well in pots, around other plants, in clumps by itself, and in general, is just easy to get along with.
Cilantro is an excellent crop for succession planting.
It doesn’t regrow much, if at all, after cutting. But if you plant a row or pot every couple of weeks, you can have a continuous supply of fresh cilantro year round. If you end up with too much and it goes to seed, that is just fine. You can replant the seeds, or dry them and use them for cooking.
The leaves do not dry well, meaning they lose most of their flavor in the drying process, which is why you don’t find it dried usually in the stores. It’s either fresh or the seed itself for cooking.
Keeping it somewhat damp, especially in warmer weather, is going to keep it greener longer before it starts to bolt to seed. Cilantro is happy with some compost dug into the soil, and doesn’t need a lot of care otherwise.
My discovery that cilantro will self-sow and come back in the spring was a pleasant surprise. It’s nice to have a row of cilantro handy and makes for easier picking. Having it come back randomly around the garden really works too.
The fact that it is so uncomplicated and adaptable makes it a good companion throughout the garden. The nicest thing is that as it flowers, it doesn’t get tough and bitter. It really becomes very tender and mild, and the flowers are edible as well.
Soil Preparation and Care
As one might imagine of an herb that originates in tropical regions, well-draining soil is key for healthy cilantro. If your soil is heavier, add a little sand to loosen it up. Add in some good compost or well-rotted manure, and your cilantro will thrive.
This herb does like to be kept moist and will go to seed in hot weather, which is normal. It does well in the shade of larger plants for moisture too, I have discovered. So interplant it with your cabbages, tomatoes, and other moisture-loving plants.
I really encourage you to try growing cilantro for yourself. Just for the record, I’ve had very good results planting from the seeds in the ethnic section of the grocery store in a pinch.
Let me know in the comments below how you end up growing yours!