Cilantro is one of my most favorite herbs. I love the sweet, yet pungent smell of cilantro. And the flavor! It is simply exquisite! I like cilantro so very much that I keep a pot of it growing right outside my kitchen door all season long, so that I can easily add it to my homemade salsa and other savory dishes I like to create in the kitchen.
One of the best, and yet worst traits about cilantro is that it yields a very quick crop. Good in the sense we can enjoy it quickly and often … but bad because, if you’re not careful, your cilantro will send up a flower and go to seed quickly before you can use it! We call this bolting. The warmer the weather gets, the quicker the cilantro bolts.
To keep your cilantro crop going strong for repetitive use (not just a one-time crop), you should sow more cilantro seeds about every 2 weeks and practice continual and rotating harvests. This technique is very much like the “cut and come again” method we use with growing lettuce. Here’s how you do it:
1. Choose a wide but shallow container for your cilantro crop. A large bowl works well, or a windowsill/windowbox style planter is also good for this method.
2. Fill your container with good quality potting soil. Mix in some organic fertilizer from the very start.
3. Wet the soil gently before seeding. Sow your seed thickly across the container, leaving a section unseeded – you’ll plant that area in about 2 weeks with a second crop. Or, you can choose to seed the whole pot and instead use 2-3 different pots for growing cilantro. If you choose the latter method, just stagger your plantings about 2 weeks apart so you’ll not be overrun with cilantro at one time.
4. Gently cover your seed with a very light layer of soil. (It’s really more of a sprinkling of soil than a true layer.)
5. Mist the pot with a spray bottle or use the mist setting on a garden hose. Do this at each watering until the seeds begin to germinate, or you’ll risk scattering your seeds on top of each other. Seeds will germinate in about a week to 10 days!
6. For cool climates, you can place your pot in the direct sun. For warm to hot climates, you should put it in a lightly shady area to protect it from going to seed too quickly. Keep in mind, cilantro is technically a cool-weather crop, so you don’t want too much heat on it. When in doubt, offer the plant shade first.
7. Start to harvest your cilantro as soon as you can! As soon as you have plants that are about 3-4 inches tall and have leaves that you can harvest, use a pair of scissors and give the plant a little “haircut” – leaving an inch or two of stem so that the plant will keep growing and producing more leaves for you.
8. Cut cilantro from a different section of your container each time you harvest. Rotate your pot and take care to make sure no one section of the pot matures and sends up flowers. By the time you’re ready to harvest that first section again, it will have new leaves! You can repeat this process several times before your cilantro goes to seed.
9. **Remember: You can sow the second section of your pot in approximately 2 weeks and follow the same growing method. Or, you can have multiple pots of cilantro going at the same time if you really like to use it in the kitchen!**