Cilantro is the leafy counterpart of the spice coriander seed, which is ubiquitous in Indian, Mexican and Asian cuisine. They have incredible detoxification benefits, particularly well known as a chelator for heavy metals. Added to smoothies, made into chutneys, or garnished they are versatile in their use.
Cilantro is a cool season edible and aromatic leaf that grow well in both containers and in the ground. Growing them is fairly easy, but they bolt pretty fast if they are heat stressed.
Here are 6 tips for lush cilantro growth :
- Seed choice: Choose slow bolt variety seeds, and not the one from the pantry for reliable good leafy growth.
- Growing media : Easy to grow in containers / ground alike. Pick a shallow (4-6″ deep) and wide container, and fill with a mix of compost, perlite and coco coir for good water retention, nutrition and aeration.
- Germination and timing: Best germination is between 55 deg -70 deg. Each spherical seed pod has two or more seeds in it. Gently crush to separate the seeds in half. Soak in water for up to 24 hours. Densely spread on growing media and add about 1/2 inch soil to cover the seeds. Once they germinate, thin them optionally. If you want large plants, thin the plants and replant in separate areas of the garden.
- Watering and feeding: Use a regular watering schedule and ensure that the soil is moist. A high nitrogen fertilizer will promote good leafy growth. I use a liquid fertilizer periodically but most often good compost is adequate to provide the nutrients.
- Harvest : Regularly remove leaves from outer sections of the plant once the plants are at least 4 inches tall. If allowed, the plants could grow as tall as 1 – 3 ft.
- Extending the harvest: Start the first couple batches indoors with the help of a heat mat, when outside temperatures are still in the 40’s. Set out transplants once the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall. Direct sow seeds every two weeks when day time temperatures are between 55 deg – 70 deg, until summer and start again during fall season once weather starts to cool off. As temperature rises, pick different cooler spots in the garden at each sowing. Under a tree canopy is a great location. Mulch with bark or compost to keep roots cool. Water adequately and frequently when temperatures rise.
A cilantro pesto recipe for a savory spread for breads / flat breads:
2 cups cilantro leaves and stem
1/2 cup walnuts, almonds – optional
2 chillies, salt to taste and a 1 tbsp of cooking oil
1/2 tsp turmeric powder.
A small bit of tamarind or 2 tsp lemon juice.
Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add oil, chillies and turmeric. Add all the other ingredients. Saute’ them together until the cilantro slightly wilts. Blend until well incorporated into a paste, adding a bit of water as necessary. Alternately, you can skip the saute’ and blend the ingredients raw. Store in the refrigerator and use it liberally as spreads/chutneys. Its particularly tasty as a spread in an avocado sandwich. It also tastes great with freshly steamed rice and a dollop of ghee.
Cilantro is an excellent addition to the front yard garden. Lush bright green is refreshing to look at in late winter/early Spring. They add ornamental value besides culinary and medicinal uses.The whiff of smell as you water the cilantro plants is delightful to the senses. Try some in your garden this season!