Cilantro is a great, versatile plant that can be used in a wide variety of ways. Just look at Mexican cuisine, and all the things they manage to do with cilantro – and South Asian dishes aren’t lagging far behind.
If you want to have an abundance of cilantro in your kitchen at all times, the best thing you can do is grow it yourself! In this article, I’ll be telling you how to do just that, so stay tuned.
A Bit of Info About Cilantro
You probably know a few things about cilantro, but there’s always more to find out. This plant has a rich and interesting history as well as a few unique qualities that you wouldn’t expect. Here are a few interesting facts about cilantro.
As you can see, it’s quite a different vegetable than you would think at first glance. That doesn’t change how delicious it is when you make guacamole from it, though. Growing it is not that difficult, and I’ll move on to that, but first I have to clear up an age-old dilemma about cilantro and another vegetable.
The Difference Between Cilantro and Coriander
There’s a lot of confusion concerning this, especially when a recipe calls for using coriander and you don’t know what you should use. Well, you don’t need to have that dilemma because coriander is the exact same plant as cilantro.
Yes, those are just two different names for the same thing. Most people in the US just use the terms a bit incorrectly – they refer to fresh coriander as cilantro and use the word coriander for dried coriander or its seeds. In the UK they just use the word coriander for everything. Where did cilantro come from then? Well, you see, it’s the Spanish name for coriander, so it probably came from Mexico.
Either way, you don’t need to be confused anymore. When you’re planting cilantro, you’re planting coriander; they’re the same thing.
How to Prepare the Soil for Cilantro
Cilantro is a plant that requires full sun, and only light shade is tolerable. Because of that, you need to pick a patch of ground that’s not blocked by anything, including other plants in your garden. It also requires the ground to be mostly dry, so you need a patch that drains well. This is why it grows so well in the dry and hot Mexico.
In accordance with that, the best time to plant cilantro is in late spring, between March and May, so it can get the most heat smack-bang in the middle of summer.
When you’ve picked your patch, you should work it over with a shovel, digging through the first two or three inches and removing any roots or large rocks. Work in some manure or organic munch into the soil and rake the area.
At this point, you don’t need to do much else, and you can plant the seeds straight away.
Planting Your Cilantro
Don’t start cilantro indoors if you can help it – since it develops a taproot, transplanting has a poor rate of success, and it grows quickly so it won’t give you much of a head start. The best way to go is to plant it directly into the ground.
The seeds should be placed 7 to 8 inches apart in rows that are around 1 foot apart. You should place the seeds around ¼ inches deep into the soil. You need to water them frequently at the start, slowing down as they start to germinate. They have a great rate of germination so you probably won’t have too many empty spots in your patch of soil
The seeds will germinate and start growing in two to three weeks from planting. They will be ready for harvest not long after that, and you can already start planting the next batch before that happens. If you want to have a steady influx of cilantro that you can use, plant the next batch just as the current one starts to sprout up.
Caring for Cilantro While It’s Growing
Maintaining Cilantro plants is an incredibly easy process when compared to most other crops. It grows extremely quickly, and you can harvest it in a matter of 3 to 4 weeks from planting! That goes only for leaves though – but the seeds can be harvested relatively soon as well, you only need to wait a total of 40 to 50 days.
While it’s growing, you need to do some maintenance though. The seeds need plenty of moisture to germinate, and you should water them regularly, giving them about an inch of water each week.
Once the seedlings sprout and reach a high of approximately 2 inches, fertilize them with an organic fertilizer or some compost to help them grow quicker. For every 100 feet of growing space, you should use around 1 cup of fertilizer. At this point you can also water them less - keep the soil damp but don’t overwater them or you will kill them. Don’t forget that cilantro thrives in dry climates.
Since they grow so fast and need a lot of sunlight, you should keep an eye on the plants and make sure they’re not throwing shade on each other. Thin the seedlings out when they’re 2 or 3 inches tall and leave only the stronger plants – you can use the weak seedlings for cooking. Pluck some leaves from the plants from then on out as necessary.
As far as diseases and pests go, there are a few to watch out for. There are some problems with insects that can be easily solved with some insecticidal soap. If mildew or wilt appear clear out the infected plants as soon as possible and don’t leave any part of them in the ground. Avoid overcrowding and overwatering and the plants should thrive.
I have heard plenty of people tell me that cilantro is difficult to grow and I don’t know where this misconception comes from. As you can see, it’s quite easy to grow in your garden, and you can get a ton of them in almost no time at all and with minimal effort. Just follow the instructions I gave you and you should be completely fine.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Until next time, enjoy your cilantro any way you like!