Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it's a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at http://patsybell.blogspot.com/ and read her travel writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-1948-Ozarks-Travel-Examiner.
Cilantro is a love-it-or-hate-it herb—most everyone has a strong opinion about this lacey green herb. Like it or not, you've probably eaten it in a Mexican or Thai dish at restaurants.
Use cilantro flowers in salads or as garnish.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson
Personally, I am a fan of cilantro. However, I grow several plantings from seed each year and it always seems like the herb is never ready to harvest when my other herbal ingredients that are essential to my favorite cilantro-infused recipes are. Because of this, I once let a cilantro plant go to seed. Now, it has moved in and become the dandelion of my herb garden, popping up everywhere. Here are some of tips I've come up with to help you grow cilantro:
• If you see the plants for sale, be aware that cilantro has a long tap root like its sister the carrot. You will have limited success transplanting cilantro. It takes about 45 days for cilantro to transition from seed to a harvestable plant.
• The very best way to grow this herb is from seed. Sow a few seeds every few weeks to have it fresh when you want to add it to a recipe.
• Thin the seed (six to eight inches) and pinch the seedlings when they are about one to two inches tall in order to encourage more leafy plant growth. Then you can quickly toss the thinnings into a salad or a salsa.
• Cilantro needs full sun and can grow in some light shade in southern states.
• Although cilantro likes a sunny location, it is quick to bolt in the hottest part of summer. Cilantro plants like well drained soil and plenty of water. Plants grow well in containers and is attractive in mixed herb container plantings.
• Succession plantings are best because cilantro has a short life. When the plant blooms, pinch off the flowers and add to salads or use as garnish. Or, if your plants go to seed, harvest the seeds and dry it to use it as its spice coriander.
Long tap roots make this plant best for direct seeding into the garden.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson
I grow cilantro to use in recipes like salsa, pico de gallo and gazpacho. The seeds were used medicinally to help with sleep and digestion.
Cilantro is truly an herb of summer and best used fresh. The leaves are almost tasteless when dried. Cuttings won't last long in the refrigerator or in a glass of water. This leafy herb does not store well, which is why you seldom see it offered in grocery stores or markets.
Seed Packet Giveaway!
The seed company Burpee has some recipes on their website that use cilantro, such as their Mexican-Style Pizza with Cilantro.
HOW TO ENTER
Three randomly selected readers who comment will receive a packet of cilantro seed.
• Tweet: Share the link http://bit.ly/bWXqf3 with your followers and tell them how you use cilantro. Example: "I will use cilantro in Salsa Verde. Visit @herbcompanion http://bit.ly/bWXqf3" Visit our Twitter page.
End date: May 9, 2010 (12:00 AM, Central Time) UPDATE: Time's up!
And the winners are...
@HerbCompanion I will use cilantro in Corn&Black Bean Salsa. Visit @herbcompanion http://bit.ly/bWXqf3
Reva Skie in Lees Summit, Missouri
Cilantro time! See @Herbcompanion or http://bit.ly/bWXqf3
Wendy Winkler in Gahanna, Ohio
How To: Grow Cilantro from The Herb Companion: http://bit.ly/cRexvi via @addthis
Rose Woodruff in Vancouver, Washington
Expect your seed packets to arrive in the mail directly from The Cook's Garden. Thanks for reading my blog.