Cilantro is a popular herb used in many cultures and cuisines throughout the world, especially in Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese and more.
Cilantro is pretty easy to grow and doesn’t require any special attention or care. If pruned properly, cilantro leaves will continue to grow back for many more harvests!
Check out our guide for harvesting your homegrown cilantro below so you can have fresh cilantro throughout the whole season.
Cilantro is a slender and feathery green herb that grows up to 20 inches tall (50 cm). The leaves differ in shape and size. They are lobed at the base, grow on long, tender stems and are similar to parsley in their appearance.
The leaves of the plant are known as cilantro, whereas the plant itself is commonly referred to as coriander. The seeds are also known as coriander seeds and are used to make coriander spice. The roots of the plant are also edible and can be used in many dishes, including soups, pork and chicken dishes, pastes/dips and more.
Cilantro has a pungent, fresh, lemony flavor with peppery notes, whereas coriander seeds have an earthy, tart aroma with sweet and floral undertones and a slight curry flavor.
If you’re looking to grow cilantro in your own garden, here’s everything you need to know about harvesting and storing the herb so you can make the most out of your plants.
How to Harvest Cilantro
Depending on how much cilantro you need for your dish, you can either pinch a few leaves individually, or harvest them in larger quantities.
After about 4 weeks of growth, when the plants are at least 6" tall, start by identifying the largest, outer leaves. Then, using a pair of scissors or your hands snip the stems of these leaves, about an inch from the surface of the soil.
Harvest about a quarter to a third of the leaves, to allow new growth to develop for continuous production! This is especially important if you’re cultivating only a couple of cilantro plants and you need to make sure they grow back new leaves for more harvests.
This method is known as the cut and come again method and allows for multiple harvests, provided that you don’t take too much off the plant.
It takes around 120 days or 4 months (after planting the initial seeds) for the plant to start flowering and set seed. During this period, you can get multiple harvests which can extend throughout the spring and into the early days of summer, before it gets hot enough for the plant to bolt.
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When to Harvest Cilantro
As we mentioned above, once you’ve planted your seeds, it takes around 4 weeks for your cilantro plants to mature enough for harvesting. Once they reach a height of around 6-8 inches, they are ready for the first harvest.
Using the cut and come again method you can have multiple harvests throughout the 4-month period that the plant grows new leaves, before it bolts.
You can easily tell when cilantro is about to flower by observing the leaves. When the plant starts growing taller and producing smaller and more delicate leaves (similar to carrot leaves) it means that it’s beginning to bolt.
At this point you can either harvest all your cilantro by pulling each plant out before the leaves become less-desirable and lose their signature taste, or you can harvest as many leaves as you’d like and leave the plants to bolt, so you can harvest the coriander seeds. You can also leave some of the seeds so they can fall to the ground and self-seed.
How to Store Fresh Cilantro
Like other similar herbs and leafy green veggies, once picked, cilantro can wilt quickly and lose its color and flavor.
So, if you do not plan on using your harvested cilantro right away, you will need to store the leaves properly so they can last longer.
The easiest way to make sure no cilantro goes to the compost pile or the trash is to always try to harvest as much as you need to use at the moment. This way you’ll not only get the best taste and flavor out of the herb, but you’ll also avoid wasting it.
However, if you’ve picked more leaves that you can use in your dish, or have noticed that your cilantro is near bolting and have harvested the entire batch, here are a few simple and effective ways to store those extra leaves for later use.
1. Keep it in water
You can store a cilantro bunch in a glass or jar of water to keep it fresh for a few days or even longer, especially if you keep the jar in the fridge. Just place the cilantro leaves in a container with an inch of water and remember to change the water occasionally to keep the herb fresh.
2. Store it in the refrigerator
To keep your cilantro fresh for a longer period of time, wrap the freshly picked and washed leaves loosely in damp kitchen towels and place them in a sealed bag or container which will go in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. This method will keep the leaves fresh for days or up to a week.
How to Freeze Fresh Cilantro
Another good method of storing cilantro is to chop it up, place it in ice-cube trays, add some water to cover the freshly-minced herb and store the trays in the freezer. This way the herbs can last up to 4 months and even longer.
How to Dry Fresh Cilantro
One of the oldest methods of storing fresh cilantro so you can use it for cooking and tea all year long is to dry it.
While you can dry your cilantro leaves in the oven, if you want to avoid losing too much of the flavor, stick to hang-drying.
Here’s how this method works. All you need to do is take a few cilantro leaves, tie them up together in a bunch using a string and hand them upside down in a well-ventilated area. Once they’re dry and crumbling, store them in an air-tight container, like a glass jar.
As you can see, harvesting and storing cilantro properly isn’t that hard. If you follow our simple and straightforward guide to harvesting cilantro, you can have multiple harvests throughout the season so you can make all your favorite dishes with spice and herbs straight from your garden.