Photo Credit: Supraorganics.com
Cilantro, dhania, chinese parsley – these are the other names of coriander, which remains a favorite herb of mine ever since I started my own garden. Aside from that, I had good memories of my mom and grandmother preparing delicious dishes with it while I was still very young. I can still remember its faint aroma wafting through our dining room as we sat and feasted on our holiday dinners. It definitely reminds me of nothing but good memories!
Coriander is edible from root to tip. However, the most commonly used parts are the leaves and the seeds. The former are usually added to dishes, sauces, or salsa as garnish, as its aroma and taste quickly disappears when exposed to heat. The seeds, which can be ground, crushed, or added whole, can be cooked with sauces and meats to make food more flavorful.
This herb’s bursting flavors, aroma, and versatility in the kitchen makes it the choice of many chefs and homemakers like my own mother and grandmother. I myself continue my own mother’s legacy by using coriander in my own culinary exploits, which is why I am motivated to grow this herb in my garden and be able to add it to my kitchen concoctions while still fresh.
Like other herbs, it’s best to use seeds to grow cilantro. I remember my mother telling me that transplanting this herb is not an easy job and would only “shock” the plant itself – which is not a good thing if you want to have a healthy cilantro specimen growing in your own herbal backyard.
The secret to cultivating cilantro is to make sure the area where it is growing is cool, especially when the soil temperature goes up to 75 degrees. So I make sure it’s safe
from the harsh rays of the sun by growing it early in the spring or late in the summer. Aside from ensuring sunlight is filtered, I also see to it that the seeds are spaced correctly to give each plant enough room for growth.
My mother also told me that preparing the soil is important. This includes putting enough mulch so the seeds stay cool because the mulch locks in the moisture and keeps weeds from growing. She also told me that if I want my cilantro to be leafier, I should put in nitrogen fertilizer and cut off some of the flowers when they sprout. I don’t cut off all the flowers so my garden still looks a bit colourful and pretty.
Taking care of this herb is not hard, although there still are pests and some plant diseases I need to protect my cilantro patch from. I do this by spraying my herbs with a soap-and-water solution, which discourages aphids and whiteflies. I also put a fence around my garden to keep rabbits (they love to eat cilantro!) and other animals out.
When my cilantro is about 6 inches tall, I cut the plant from its stem at ground level when I harvest it. I sometimes dry it or freeze it to preserve its aroma, but, despite this, little of its essence remains. So I sometimes just get the herb that I need when I need it to maximize its herb-y aroma, the way my dear mother and grandmother did.