Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), an ancient doctor, used the term Coriander for Cilantro seeds because “Coris” (Greek word for bedbug) emitted the same odour or perhaps because “Cimex lectularis” (European bed bug) resembled Coriander seeds. The leaves of Coriandrum sativum are referred to as Cilantro while the seeds are generally known as Coriander. This plant is probably native to Southern Europe and was originally grown around in Greece. The herb cilantro is mentioned in Sanskrit texts and Bible where the color of “Manna” (bread made of sprouted wheat berries and water) is compared to coriander.Let us learn how to grow cilantro or coriander.
[ DO YOU KNOW : CORIANDER CAN BE USED AS A NATURAL WATER PURIFIER ]
Planting Cilantro through seeds
You can grow cilantro by directly planting the seeds into the soil or can use seed germinating trays to head start Cilantro from seeds. But you need to be careful while transferring cilantro seedlings from germinating trays to ground as they are very delicate, try not to touch the roots as this may harm the young plant.
As cilantro grows so quickly, you should plant a new batch of seeds every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that you have a fresh supply of cilantro leaves throughout the growing season. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inches deep in ground forming neat rows or 0.6 cm deep into germinating trays. They will most probably germinate in 2 to 3 weeks of time.
Planting Location to Grow Cilantro
You need to select a patch of soil where cilantro will get full exposure to the sun. The soil used to grow cilantro should be light and well-drained with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. You should cultivate the soil before planting by using a shovel, rototiller or a spade. You can use 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) of organic mulch such as compost, rotten leaves or manure onto the top layer of soil. You should rake the area before sowing the seeds by using a gardening equipment. But if you want to use manure, you should ensure that the manure is composted or aged for at least 3 months so that it doesn’t burn or damage the young plants.
Planting Time to Grow Cilantro
In temperate climates, the best time to start planting cilantro is late springs, between the months of March and May. In tropical climates, cilantro grows better during cooler, dry times of year, such as fall. If the weather becomes too hot, cilantro plants will start to bolt – which means that they will flower and go to seed, so you have to choose your time of the year wisely.
Grow Cilantro in Pots
First, you need to choose a flower pot or container that is at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) wide and 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) deep. Then you have to fill the pot with some fast-draining soil and mix it with some fertilizer. Moisten the soil with little water until it’s just damp, not soggy and sprinkle the seeds lightly over the soil to disperse evenly. Cover the seeds with another 1⁄4 inch (0.6 cm) of the same soil. Cilantro needs full sun to grow, so place it in a sunny window-sill. South-facing windows offer the best light and best growing conditions for cilantro. The seeds should germinate within 7 to 10 days but you can try to cover the pot with plastic for faster growth. Remove the plastic as soon as seedlings sprout out of the soil. Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle to lightly mist the soil. If you pour water onto the soil, it might displace the seeds.
Spacing to Grow Cilantro
You can plant Cilantro seedlings 6 to 8 inches apart and if you choose to plant them row wise then the rows should be at a distance of at least 1 foot from each other. The plant spreads up to 18 inches wide and has tender stems with lobed leaves all around.
How to Take Care of Cilantro ?
This herb is a hardy annual and grows best in warm conditions but does not transplant well due to presence of its taproot system. Cilantro enjoys a sunny position to grow in but appreciates a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Cilantro has a tendency to run to seed (coriander) if stressed. This is where its flowers premature and develop seeds instead of growing lush foliage.
Watering to grow Cilantro
Cilantro seeds need plenty of moisture to germinate, so make sure you water them frequently. They need about an inch of water every week. Once the plants have established themselves, they do not need the same amounts of water, they needed earlier. You have to keep the soil damp, but not soggy, as cilantro is a dry climate herb and loves well drained soil.
The watering requirements of this herb change if you are growing them indoors or in containers (plastic or clay pots).
Fertilizing Your Herb
When your cilantro seedlings have reached about 2 inches (5.1 cm) in height, you can fertilize them with compost or organic fertilizer which should be aged for about 3 months. You have to be careful not to over-fertilize the plant, you only need about 1/4th cup of organic fertilizer for every 25 feet (7.6 m) of growing space.
Thinning Your Cilantro Seedlings
Once established, you need to stop the cilantro plants from becoming overcrowded by thinning the seedlings when the cilantro is 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) tall. You simply have to pull out the smaller plants and leave the strongest ones to grow larger, allowing 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) space between each plant.
You need to keep weeds away from stealing the Cilantro plants nutrients so make sure that your herb stays free of nasty weeds. You don’t want weed to choke your cilantro so give the garden a weekly checkup to remove these invaders. You can also prevent weeds from growing by spreading some mulch around the base of the plants as soon as they are visible above the soil.
How To Harvest Your Cilantro ?
When the stems of your cilantro reach 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in height, it is ready to be harvested. You can cut 2/3rd of the leaves every week, as this will encourage the plant to keep producing more leaves. This way, it is possible to harvest four crops of cilantro from a single pot if you wish to use cilantro for fresh-green leaves. Harvest cilantro by cutting off individual leaves and stems from the base of the plant, near ground level, when the stems are 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) tall. Don’t cut off more than one third of the leaves at a time, as this can weaken the plant. Once you have harvested the leaves, the plant will continue to grow for at least two or three more cycles.
How To Harvest Your Coriander ?
You have to decide whether or not you want the cilantro plants to flower. As soon as the plant will start to flower, it will stop producing fresh, new shoots with edible leaves. At this point, you can cut off the flowers. The plant will then produce more leaves. But if you want to harvest coriander seeds from the plant, then you should leave it to flower. Once the flower dries, you will be able to harvest coriander seeds that can be used in cooking. You can allow the seeds to naturally fall on the ground where the cilantro plants will self-sow, providing you with more cilantro plants the next season.You can also save the dried up seeds and plant them in the next season.
Storing your Herb
If you are storing the fresh-green leaves of cilantro in a refrigerator, cover it with a plastic bag. Cilantro loves cool temperatures and should be stored in the refrigerator. You can use this cilantro for about a week. You have to cut off the seed heads along with a few inches of stalk and hang them upside down in a brown paper bag. When the seeds are fully dry, they will fall out of the heads and into the bottom of the bag. Store the dry seed in a lidded glass jar in a cool, dry location.