How To Grow Cilantro: A Mexican Staple

Cilantro loves cooler spring temperatures and is easy to grow. It may be possible to grow some more of this annual in the fall, or to grow it in a pot indoors if you live somewhere with a long fall. Similar to queen and lace, cilantro also attracts beneficial insects that help to control more destructive insects in your garden. 

Cilantro is a Mexican favorite herb but there is a portion of the population genetically predisposed for cilantro to takes like soap. This makes this herb rather interesting in general.

Why should you grow cilantro?

  • Helps attract beneficial insects
  • Helps control destructive insects in your garden
  • Cilantros are easy to grow and can be grown year-round indoors.
  • Cilantro makes a great addition to tacos and salsa
  • Cilantro tastes great in a variety of different dishes and garnishes.
  • Can be used as a natural remedy for migraines or seizures.
  • Is known to help alleviate the symptoms of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and can raise energy levels.

How to start cilantro from seeds

You can grow cilantro very easily from seed inside or outside in pots. There is a great germination rate for these small seeds. It will even begin to plant new plants from seed once the temperature starts to drop during the fall without anyone having to encourage it. 

In the prairies, if it is a long, cool spring you will be fine if you start seeds indoors a few weeks before the last frost. In the north, you should wait until after the last frost if it is a short, warm spring.

Start cilantro seeds in a seed starting container by placing 2-3 seeds per starter and lightly cover them with your seed starting medium. Moisten gently with a new spray bottle of water after each plant. 

It is important to till and add plenty of fresh compost to the soil prior to sowing seeds to improve drainage and nutrition. Seeds should be planted 1/4 inch deep, thinned to 6 to 8 inches apart, and rows should be spaced 1 foot apart.

For medium plants, you should plant four to six seeds per square, and for small plants, you can plant up to 16 seeds. Water well when planting and 3-4 times a week until the plants are established. 

How to start cilantro from cuttings

Your local grocery store will typically sell cilantro springs or cuttings as well. If the stems of cilantro are placed in a glass of water for a few days, they will grow roots. You can simply plant them in pots when their roots are long enough.

You’ll be able to have a full plant in a few months with virtually no work from you. New sprigs will appear in the coming weeks. Since fresh cilantro is often available at grocery stores, you can start cilantro this way even if you cannot find seeds locally. 

How to grow cilantro

It will thrive in full sunlight, but if you live in a hot area, such as the Southwest or South, it will tolerate light shade. The best time to plant in zones 8 through 10 is in the fall, since the plants will live until the weather warms up in late spring. Zones 7 and below should plant cilantro in the late spring, following the last frost.

If you are planting cilantro, be sure to choose a soil that is well-drained and has a pH between 6.2 and 6.8. It is possible to improve the quality of your soil by conducting a soil test or mixing several inches of compost into the top layer of your existing soil.

Basil tends to attract snails and aphids fairly easily. Make sure you keep an eye on your plants regularly to ensure that they remain healthy and free of insects. The use of insecticide soap on your cilantro plants will kill off aphids without harming pollinators attracted to the plant.

How to grow cilantro in pots

You should ensure that your soil drains well when growing cilantro in pots to help prevent the roots from getting soggy. Plant in potting soil that has been mixed with compost for best results. If you are growing one cilantro plant, you will need a pot that is at least 8 inches deep to provide enough soil and space for the plant.

In a larger pot of 12 inches, you can fit up to four medium-sized cilantro plants. By mounding up a thin layer of mulch around your cilantro plant, you can help the plant retain moisture during summer heat and even during winter when the indoor air is dry. 

How to harvest cilantro

Whenever you want fresh cilantro for your cooking, you can harvest the cilantro plant once it has established itself. It is possible to do this by pinching or cutting off a small spring here and there as needed. In order to avoid overharvesting, plant at least two cilantro plants if you want to use a lot of cilantro. Never harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. 

The harvest can begin at the end of the season when the weather begins to get too hot or the first frost is coming. Fresh or dried cilantro can be dried or frozen for use later. If you have an abundance of cilantro near the end of the season, you can use dried cilantro to spice up your favorite Mexican dishes.

Tips for using cilantro in your kitchen

– If you are making guacamole or soup cilantro would be a great addition but only add small amounts at first so as not to overwhelm your taste buds or others who might want to try it out too.

– When adding chopped cilantro into food such as salsa always do this last before serving because exposure to air will cause the leaves and stems to darken significantly which lessens its fresh flavor palate qualities once mixed in.

– Add to your favorite pico de gallo or homemade salsa recipe to give them a refreshing and zesty flavor.

– Add chopped cilantro leaves at the end of cooking dishes such as soups, stews or chili for best results; this will ensure that it retains its bright green color rather than turning brownish-black from the heat.

– Cilantro is also used in many Middle Eastern dishes including tabbouleh salad which is typically made with bulgur wheat and tomato sauce seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic cloves, finely diced onion and fresh parsley–a perfect recipe if you are looking for something light yet satisfying on a hot day.

– Cilantro can be juiced for an excellent added punch when making your favorite smoothies or cocktails like Mojos.

– As guests before using cilantro in meals served to them. Cilantro tastes like soap to many (including myself) and can interact with some medications.

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