There will always be foods that divide the population and cilantro is one of them. Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that cilantro has a unique taste to it. If you fall into the category of people that want to add this spicy herb to their dishes, find out just when to harvest it.
First, you might have already searched for the answer to harvesting cilantro and ended up confused. This is because the scientific name is Coriandrum sativum.
As a result, some cultures, like in England, refer to the plant as coriander while others, like in America and Canada, refer to the plant as cilantro. For our purposes, we’ll use the more well-known name, cilantro.
When to harvest cilantro? Cilantro can grow in both the spring and fall and will continue to grow until the weather becomes too hot. Pick individual leaves as you need them but if you want a bunch of cilantro in your fridge, keep the stems on so they can be placed in a glass of water to last longer.
Cilantro seeds, more commonly known as coriander, can also be used. Let your plant grow flowers and you will see a seed pod. Once these pods are brown, you can pick them and dry them in a brown paper bag.
The seeds can be used whole or ground up in stews and curries. Cilantro seeds will last for up to a year in an airtight container.
How do you know when your cilantro is ready to harvest?
Cilantro is one of those plants that can be harvested twice a year. It prefers cooler weather so you can plant and harvest it in the spring and the fall.
Cilantro should have a nice, even green color to it. The leaves aren’t too large and might have a slight curve to the edges.
The entire plant should be at least 4 to 6 inches tall but don’t be surprised if it grows even larger. It prefers sunlight and in the right location may even reach 10 or 12 inches tall.
After planting your cilantro, you only need to wait about 40 to 45 days before it is ready for harvest.
What happens if you don’t harvest cilantro?
If you don’t harvest cilantro, it will bolt or grow flowers. Flowers produce seeds, which can be useful, but if you want to take full advantage of the plant, you need to stop the flowers from growing.
When your cilantro plant shows signs of growing flower buds, you need to pinch these buds off right away. Doing so will force the plant to continue growing and you can enjoy fresh cilantro from spring to summer. However, there will come a time when your plant needs to bolt, which is usually when the weather warms up.
Unfortunately, cilantro is an annual plant, meaning it only grows for one season before dying. When left at the end of the growing season, cilantro will flower and then die. When this happens, it is best to toss it in your compost so it can turn into organic matter.
How to harvest cilantro?
There are a lot of parts of the cilantro plant that can actually be harvested, so we’ll discuss each area in-depth, including the leaves, the stems, and the seeds.
How to harvest cilantro leaves
If you’re making Mexican food or need a bit of punch for a sauce, cilantro leaves bring just what you need. The best part is you can simply pick what you need.
First, wait until your plant is 4 to 6 inches tall. Cilantro grows well in a vegetable garden but also does great in a pot. You can decide where you will get the most use out of your plant and where the growing conditions are ideal in your yard.
Once the leaves are the right size, you can harvest what you need. While you can use scissors, cilantro is soft enough that it can be pinched off with just your fingers.
Locate the base of the cilantro leaves, just at the end of the stem. This is where you want to pinch off. The stems can be quite bitter so it’s best to only use the leaves for cooking.
How to harvest cilantro stems
Cilantro is best when served fresh but we understand if you change your mind, or just want to harvest some without having an immediate plan. To do so, you want to harvest not just the leaves but the stems, too.
Cut the stems of the cilantro plant, picking what you might need for the upcoming week. Cut above the main stems of the plant so that each cilantro leaf has just one secondary stem attached to it.
With these larger pieces of cilantro, it’s important to store them the right way. Place your cilantro stems in a glass of water. Be sure not to wash them first.
Then, cover the glass with a plastic bag, being sure to leave the bottom of the bag open to allow air circulation. Then, when you’re ready for cilantro, you can remove the leaves from the stem.
Cilantro stored this way will last for up to a week in the fridge. Just be sure to check the water and change it every few days so it doesn’t become murky.
The other time that you want to harvest cilantro with its stems is when it’s the end of the growing season. Cilantro loves cool weather and when the temperature turns and your plant can’t be stopped from bolting, you will want to harvest what you can.
In this case, take some scissors and cut around the base of the plant. Harvest what you can because this will be your last chance.
How to harvest cilantro seeds
In addition to the leaves of cilantro, you can also use the seeds. It is best to wait until the end of the growing season so that you can take full advantage of the cilantro leaves.
Once you are ready, simply allow the plant to grow its flower buds. Then, allow the flower buds to turn brown.
Two to three weeks after they are brown, you can then harvest cilantro seeds. Take a pair of sharp scissors and cut underneath the seed pods.
Grab a paper bag and place the seed pods inside. Then, hang the entire bag upside down in a warm, dry place. Don’t forget to secure the top of the bag.
The hope is that the seeds will naturally fall out of their pods and into the bottom of the bag, thus doing the hard work for you.
Finally, grab a clean dish, preferably with a rim on it, and empty the seeds from the bag onto the dish. The seeds might bounce a bit so you want to contain them.
If there are still some seeds inside the pods, gently roll them in your hand and the seeds will come out.
Place all your cilantro seeds into a clean jar with a lid. Check for any twigs or debris and remove them. Cilantro seeds will keep for up to a year in a cool, dry place.
Should you wash cilantro after harvesting?
Cilantro should be used fresh for best results. If you are about to make some guacamole, wait until you are ready to do so before picking your cilantro leaves.
Then, place your cilantro leaves in a colander and give it a good wash to eliminate any dust and dirt. Place the leaves on a paper towel to allow them to fully dry.
However, if you want to harvest cilantro but don’t want to use it right away, don’t wash it yet. Instead, place the leaves and stems in a glass of water and cover them with a plastic bag before storing them in the fridge.
Then, when you are ready to use your cilantro leaves, pick them from the stems and this is when you should give them a good wash.
Can you eat cilantro immediately after harvesting?
Yes, you can definitely eat cilantro immediately after harvesting. In fact, this is when it is at its freshest, most pungent form. The fresher, the better with cilantro.
For those that have an excess of cilantro and aren’t sure what to do with it, you can actually store it in the freezer for three to four months.
With proper storage, start by placing the leaves in a blender or food process. Add just a bit of water and then grind it all up.
The leaves should form a thick paste. Place this in ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Finally, transfer the cubes of pureed cilantro into a freezer-safe bag and place it in the freezer until you need it.
While some swear that cilantro has a soapy taste to it, others love its bright, slightly spicy taste. Cilantro is easy to grow in a garden and once it is about 4 to 6 inches high, you can start harvesting it. Continue to pick the leaves when they are ready and then, when you have had your fill, allow the plant to bolt so you can use the flower seeds, too.