Cilantro is a simple and rewarding herb to grow at home. It is alternatively referred to as Chinese parsley or coriander leaves. Its seeds are commonly known as coriander and are also used as a spice. Cilantro is a popular herb in many different cultures. It is a mainstay of Mexican and Spanish cooking, as well as many Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Cilantro was cultivated in ancient Greece where its leaves were used in cooking and its essential oils used to make perfume. Its zesty fragrance helps freshen the air and adds a distinct flavor to the herb garden.
The cilantro plant is similar in appearance to parsley, but has a much stronger smell. Cilantro has a distinct flavor that is often described as citrus. Cilantro is an extremely healthy herb. It can help to settle the stomach and prevent nausea. Cilantro can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar as well as help to cleanse the body of toxins.
Cilantro can be grown in the ground or in containers. Its containers should be at least eighteen inches wide and ten inches deep to give it enough space to grow. It will grow best in a location that receives full sun, at least six hours each day. Cilantro can thrive indoors as long as it receives enough sunlight. A growing light can help ensure that indoor cilantro plants receive adequate sunlight.
Cilantro can be grown from seed or from small plants. Its soil should be kept moist, but able to drain thoroughly. Once in the ground, cilantro tends to grow very quickly and will soon begin to flower and form seeds. For this reason, many people in warmer climates prefer to grow cilantro outdoors in the spring or fall when it will grow at a slower rate than during the summer months.
If the cilantro plant begins to flower, simply snip the flowers off to redirect its growth to the leaves. A flowering cilantro will not produce as much new growth. It is best to harvest the larger leaves on the outside of the plant first, allowing the smaller inside leaves to continue to grow.
The cilantro plant should be at least six inches tall before any leaves are harvested. After that, its leaves should be picked at least once a week to maintain its growth and prevent flowering.
All parts of the cilantro plant are edible, but its fresh leaves and dried seeds are the most commonly used. Cilantro does not dry or freeze well, so its leaves are best used fresh from the plant. It will also quickly use its flavor when heated, so it is best to always use cilantro cold or add it to a dish in the final minutes of cooking.
Fresh cilantro can be used in a number of different ways. Adding fresh cilantro to homemade guacamole or salsa adds an entirely new dimension of flavor. Cilantro can be used as a garnish on meat and fish. Chopped cilantro can also be used as a flavorful garnish on curries or added to stir fries in the final moments of cooking.