Jacqueline Soule here – just back from visiting a nursery and delivering them some of my books for them to sell. Of course I couldn’t resist a few plants – especially some herbs, including some fine looking cilantros to plant and use in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned to this site!)
Say “cilantro” here in the Southwest, and most folks think of salsa. And while cilantro can get along with the heat of chilies in salsa, it quickly dies with the heat of a summer day. Therefore you will want to grow this herb in the cool winter months – like right now.
Planting and Care.
As mentioned, cilantro is a cool season crop, and is best planted in our area in September. But go ahead and get some now!
Cilantro will grow through the winter and into April before starting to flower and set seed (called bolting). Once bolting begins, reconcile yourself to the fact that you will soon have some coriander seed, plus seed to plant next year. Harvest the seed if you want it, because otherwise the lesser goldfinch and doves will clean it all up.
Light. Cilantro does best with six or more hours of winter sun.
Temperature. Plants can take frost to around 20oF, so cover if a harder frost is expected.
Water. Let cilantro dry a little between watering once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.
Fertilizer. Cilantro gets very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to add fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility.
Pollinators. Cilantro could be justified as a garden plant if only for the job it does in attracting pollinators to the garden. Bees enjoy the nectar-rich flowers and the resulting coriander honey is prized for its flavor. (beekeeper Monica like this!)
Harvest and Use.
Cilantro tastes great fresh but loses flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, gently pat dry. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or other container. Use directly from the freezer.
Read more about growing cilantro in my book “Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening” (Cool Springs Press, $23). Note – this is a link to Amazon, and if you use it to buy my book, I get a few pennies.
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