Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum: “Pharaoh’s Friend”
Cilantro makes another winning argument for home-grown vegetables. This leafy herb, a cross-cultural superstar, fits in a pot on your windowsill, brightens up almost any savory dish, and smells wonderful while growing.
The herb has been popular for centuries, earning mentions in Sanskrit texts and in the Bible. Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with cilantro. And nowadays, health scientists concur that cilantro could help stave off the afterlife. The herb packs in the vitamins–A, K, and C–and also acts as a heavy metal detoxifier.
Cilantro has the best flavor and vigor when it’s fresh. The plants bring beneficial insects to your garden, especially when grown with mint, basil, and parsley. Although it bolts in the heat, multiple successions take care of that. There’s also a benefit to the bolt–coriander spice comes from the dried and ground seed heads.
- Bright green, lacy foliage and small white flowers make cilantro a good companion at the edge of a flower bed.
- Combine with other small-flowering, pungent herbs to bring beneficial insects.
- Delicious in stir-fries, sauces, and dips in cuisines ranging from Indian to Mexican to Brazilian.
Keep It Alive
- An edible biennial, cilantro is hardy in all zones, in full sun or partial shade.
- Plant outdoors in cool seasons (spring or fall) or keep a pot indoors (it will tolerate a shady windowsill).
- Snip leaves on a weekly basis to keep the plant from getting leggy.
In one study, researchers demonstrated that a handful of cilantro could clear a jug of contaminated water of almost all its lead content. Use it freely to reap the maximum health benefits: Add it to guacamole, juice it into a smoothie, layer it into black beans.
To get the most from your cilantro plants, choose a slow-bolting variety and provide adequate moisture during germination. Plant in rich soil; cilantro demands little else. If you want, let some go to seed, then hang the heads upside down in a paper bag so you can harvest the orange-peel scented seeds and grind them to make coriander.
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for cilantro with our Cilantro: A Field Guide.
Interested in other edible plants for your garden? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various edible plants (including flowers, herbs and vegetables) with our Edible Plants: A Field Guide.