Cilantro is a wonderful herb that goes into many popular dishes, from butter chicken to cucumber salads. Depending on where you live, you may call the entire plant coriander, whereas, in the United States, coriander refers only to the seeds. No matter what they call Coriandrum sativum, it’s popular with home gardeners who want instant access to the herb. But, once it’s time to harvest your cilantro, you have to be careful when it comes to collecting the leaves and stems, or you could end up accidentally killing your plant.
If you’re planning to eat its leaves and stems, you need to harvest them when the plant is mature, but also before your cilantro has a chance to flower. Once cilantro bolts, the leaves and stems become more bitter. And, how do you harvest cilantro so that it will regrow for you to enjoy again? Below are some easy tips to ensure you can harvest cilantro throughout the summer.
List of Materials
Harvesting cilantro is easy and you don’t need much by way of materials. All it takes is:
- A pair of regular scissors
- A fully-grown cilantro plant
When to Harvest
You want to make sure that your cilantro is ready for harvesting. It can take six to eight weeks for a cilantro plant to mature. Make sure your plant reaches 4 to 6 inches before you start cutting — you want it to be strong enough to keep growing.
However, unless you want it to bolt so you can collect the seeds, don’t give your cilantro too much time to grow before you trim it back. To tell if your plant is about to bolt (go to seed), keep an eye out for its main central stem. If you notice it thickening and growing fast, your cilantro will bolt soon.
Temperature plays a key part in how quickly cilantro blossoms. Since cilantro is a cool-weather crop, gardeners in warmer climates may notice their cilantro flowers more quickly. If you are concerned about your plants flowering too early, you can look into purchasing seeds that are specially grown and labeled as “slow-bolting,” such as the Leisure variety. Or, if possible, move your plants to a cooler area.
How to Harvest
Harvesting your cilantro is simple! Just use your scissors to cup the top section of your cilantro. This will include the leaves and a small portion of the stem.
You have to be careful not to cut too much, as this could cause your cilantro to die, or not grow back. But trimming your cilantro can be good for the plant, as it allows it to grow back more fully, and allows you to have a great supply of the herb on hand. But, remember to leave 1 to 2 inches above the soil for the plant to regrow.
Another tip to make the most of your cilantro plant is that you may want to ration the sections of the plant. Depending on the size of your plants, and how much you need to use, you can do this by separating your harvesting into quarters. This means that you will be harvesting the leaves and stems from only one section of the plant at a time.
This way, you only cut from one area of the plant each time you harvest. This allows the sections time to regrow between your trimmings and may help you to harvest more regularly since you’ll be trimming your sections at different times.
You can harvest from most cilantro plants about once a week, whether you use the rotating/sectional method above or not. By that time, the plant should have regrown its stems and leaves enough for you to cut them again. You may also select a few leaves as needed, but remember, allowing your cilantro plants to grow taller than 6 to 8 inches, may encourage bolting.
Tips and Tricks
- You can keep flowering at bay by trimming the plant down so the stalks are only 1 to 2 inches above the soil after harvesting.
- Over time, as you work with cilantro, you will get a feel for when to cut, how long to leave it, and when it is going to bolt.
- You can make sure you have enough cilantro on hand by planting multiple bunches or sets at different times throughout the summer months. This way, you’ll have enough cilantro on hand if your plants tend to bolt sooner than you’d like.
- You can also dig up the whole plant if you’d like. Cilantro roots are a staple in Thai cuisine.
To Sum Up
Cilantro, or coriander, is a great herb to cultivate, especially since it regrows in a short amount of time. Growing your own cilantro, and learning to harvest it, allows you the freedom to use it in your kitchen anytime you want! And remember, you can also save the coriander seeds from your plant to add to your meals. You may even soon decide that you want to build a herb garden so you have a bunch of different plants available to spice up your cooking.
While the timing can be tricky, as well as making sure to stay on top of the harvesting, it is well worth it when you realize you can collect cilantro straight from your garden for those last-minute dinners!