Species: Coriandrum sativum
Conditions: Well drained soil, partial shade tolerated, but does better in full sun. Cool weather only.
Calendar for Hardiness 6B
April – May
Cooking: From last year’s crop, frozen cubes of chopped cilantro with water may be added to soups and stews for flavour. Dry coriander seed may be used as a spice, or as the centre in Mexican candies.
Start: In April, start seed by casting directly outdoors, and monitor growth from seed left in the garden from the previous fall. They may be inter-planted with other vegetables, such as lettuce.
Care: They are resilient but will grow stronger and greener with consistent watering.
June – September
Cooking: Peak of the season; use chopped leaves in salsas and salads, and to finish stews. Flowers are edible, as well as stems, roots, and green and dry seed. Chopped leaves may be packed in ice cubes trays, then fill with water and kept in the freezer; once they are solid, they might be transferred to freezer bags, to free the tray for the next batch. Roots may be washed, dried and frozen; not used in Mexican cuisine, but it is great with Thai food.
Harvesting: Leaves may be collected by harvesting separate sprigs as needed, or by chopping the entire tops 2″ above the ground; it will regrow in a couple of weeks. Blooms may be picked, which will be followed by bright green spheres (green seed), also edible. Any leftover seed may be allowed to dry and used as the spice coriander.
Second crop: Once the weather starts to cool, a fall crop might be sown.
Cooking: Enjoy fresh cilantro from the fall crop, or from frozen cubes.
Harvest: Pick when the green papery wrappers that cover the fruit start to open from the fruit bursting inside. The greener the fruit, the tangier the salsa, which is desirable in general, except perhaps for the purple varieties, which show their colour as they mature, and are good and pretty in raw salsas.
Saving seed: Very easy to collect from the plants left to bloom and seed, once the green seeds turn brown. The seed may be stored in a glass jar for next spring, and some may be scattered in the garden beds in the fall for an extra-early crop in the spring.
Care: Continue caring; although watering may be reduced.
Cooking: Cook from frozen.
Gardening: Pull plants and compost or dispose as yard waste. Let a couple in the ground to allow self-seeding.
December – March
Cooking: From frozen or dry seed
Note: One seed packet is all that is needed to establish a self-sufficient crop of cilantro, by allowing some plants to bloom in early summer, and collecting, scattering and saving dry seed in late summer and fall.