Kitchen & Pantry

Cilantro (coriander leaves)

Cilantro (coriander leaves) |

Cilantro refers to the leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum). Sometimes called coriander leaves or Chinese parsley, it is a familiar cooking herb just as the coriander seeds are a familiar cooking spice. Not only does cilantro figure prominently in Southeast Asian cooking, one finds it in Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines as well.

About three years ago, I started growing Vietnamese cilantro (sometimes called Vietnamese mint) which is easy to propagate and which do not require a lot of tending. I’ve been using it in a lot of dishes and they’re great with Southeast Asian food. But while they’re great when added to the cooking pot, as a garnish, the leaves are more fibrous than the variety with scalloped (grooved?) leaves. And I’d miss cilantro even more.

Not everyone likes cilantro, some go as far as to say they hate it, but I am absolutely crazy about it. The piquant (sometimes described as pungent) flavor perks up soups, spring rolls and stews like no other herb can. I used to buy cilantro from the supermarket but storing them was problematic. The best way is to keep them in the fridge wrapped in paper to absorb the water to prevent them from rotting fast. But even wrapped in paper, cilantro only lasts for a few days. And they’re never as good as when they’re freshest. I tried growing them in the garden but they never lasted more than a few days. They just shriveled and died.

Last December, less then six months after we moved to this house, I finally got around to buying herbs to grow in the garden. I bought two small cilantro seedlings and, this time, I was careful to ask the shop attendants for tips on how to nurture them. First tip, grow them on on well draining soil. Second tip, if they appear to bend sideways, let them be — when the branches stay low, they actually grow roots. You can see my cilantro in the photo above and they’re thriving. I’ve actually started to snip the tops to garnish my soups.

Cilantro is an annual plant which sometimes survives a second year. But since they are not perennials, I’ve read up on how to plant them from coriander seeds to make sure that I’ll have a steady supply of cilantro all year ’round.

From Gardening Knowhow:

… The “seeds” are actually two cilantro seeds encased in a husk. The husk is hard, round and is light brown or grey in color. Before you plant them in the ground, you need to prepare the cilantro seeds to increase the chances that they will germinate. Gently crush the seed husk holding the two seeds together. Soak the cilantro seeds in water for 24 “? 48 hours. Remove from the water and allow to dry.

How to Plant Cilantro

Once you have prepared the cilantro seeds, you need to plant the seeds. You can either start cilantro indoors or out doors. If you are starting the seeds indoors, you will be transplanting cilantro to the outdoors later on.

Put the seeds in the soil and then cover them with about a 1/4 inch layer of soil. Leave the cilantro growing until it is at least 2 inches tall. At this time, thin the cilantro to be about 3-4 inches apart. You want to be growing cilantro in crowded conditions because the leaves will shade the roots and help to keep the plant from bolting in hot weather.

If you are transplanting cilantro into your garden, dig holes 3-4 inches apart and place the plants in them. Water thoroughly after transplanting.

Cilantro Growing Conditions

The most important thing to remember when growing cilantro is that it does not like hot weather. Cilantro growing in soil that reaches 75F will bolt and go to seed. This means that the ideal cilantro growing conditions are cool but sunny. You should be growing cilantro where it will get early morning or late afternoon sun, but be shaded during the hottest part of the day.

When I get to the planting-cilantro-from-seeds part, I won’t forget to take photos so I can show you the stages.

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