How To Harvest Cilantro And Store It Properly

Also known as Chinese parsley or Coriandrum sativum, cilantro is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. Fresh and zesty, cilantro can add a punch of flavor to your recipes. It is used abundantly in Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, African, and even Scandinavian cuisines. It’s even grown as cilantro microgreens!

Most people prefer using fresh cilantro as the herb itself does not have a very long shelf life, and it loses flavor and aroma when dried. It is always a good idea to grow some cilantro plants in the garden to have cilantro on hand.

Even if you don’t use cilantro leaves in your recipes, you can harvest the plant for its flavorful cilantro seeds, which are better known as coriander. As cilantro grows easily in the garden, you’ll be able to enjoy the plants’ leaves through spring and summer and then let them go to seed at that time!

To ensure a continuous supply of cilantro, you must learn how to harvest your plants properly. Helpfully, that’s what we’re going to discuss today! Read on to learn everything you need to know about harvesting cilantro.   

When Should I Harvest Cilantro Plants?

How to harvest cilantro
Knowing how to harvest cilantro will keep you stocked up. Source: World to Table

Harvesting regularly and properly can extend the lifespan of the cilantro plants. However, it is important to let your plant get established before you start harvesting. 

As the plant grows, it produces many long, slender stems. When the leaves are lacy-looking and the stems are long, they are ready to be harvested. At this point, the cilantro herbs are ten to twelve inches tall. Harvest your cilantro through the spring and into the early summer growing season. If the full sun conditions in the summertime prove to be too hot weather for your plants, they may bolt to seed.

The ideal time to harvest cilantro is in the morning. Harvest it once a week or take individual leaves when they are required. Usually, it takes around 2 to 3 weeks to grow back, so harvest accordingly. Keep in mind that regular cut-and-come-again harvesting is best as it keeps the plant busy producing foliage.

How To Harvest Cilantro

Cilantro flowers before producing seed
When the white cilantro flowers fade, seed pods form. Source: Cristinacards

Harvesting is easily the most exciting part of growing plants. Harvest cilantro leaves individually if you only need a few. When harvesting cilantro in larger quantities, it’s best to leave a minimum of 1-2 inches of stem above the soil’s surface, preferably with a few lower leaves still in place to sustain the herbs until the plant grows back. Use sharp, sterilized garden shears or snips to cut the stems cleanly.

When growing cilantro in limited quantities, it is best to take only a small section of the plant at a time to ensure your herbs grow back properly. In addition, the cilantro herb can take on a bitter taste when the plant flowers and goes to seed. The leaves will be less-desirable at that time, so it’s better to harvest before the plant bolts.

How To Store Fresh Cilantro

Before you’ve harvested, it’s best to decide how much you should take from the garden. If you do not plan on using the leaves immediately, you’ll need to learn how to store cilantro to make it last longer. There are a couple different methods to try.

Storing Cilantro in Water

Once harvested, wait to wash your cilantro so the leaves remain dry. Place the stem ends into a glass or jar with 1” to 1.5” of water and store it in the refrigerator for up to a few days. Change the water at least once a day. To maintain humidity around the herbs, cover the top loosely with a plastic bag.

Storing Cilantro in the Freezer

Chop cilantro before freezing
Wash and chop up cilantro if you plan on freezing it for later use. Source: wader

Another low-maintenance method of storing cilantro is to freeze it. Rinse off the leaves to remove any garden soil and shake off excess moisture. Chop the leaves into small bits and pack them into ice cube trays, adding just barely enough water to cover the herb. If desired, you can pre-measure so you know exactly how much is in each cube for future recipes. Once fully frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag. Use as required in soups, sauces, smoothies, marinades, etc. Frozen cilantro can last up to 6 to 8 months. 

How To Dry Cilantro

There are a couple ways to dry cilantro. It’s possible to dry cilantro in the oven. However, if you really want to enjoy flavor-packed dried cilantro, you may want to avoid using heat, as the hot air can significantly impact the finished and dried herb’s flavor.

A better method for drying cilantro is air drying or hang-drying. Arrange the herb stems in a small bunch and tie them with a string. Hang the bunch upside down in a well-ventilated, dark location. You can also tie a brown paper bag around the bunch to prevent dust from accumulating on your cilantro.

Once the bunch has been hanging for around a week, start checking every day or two to see how dry it is. When it crumbles on contact, it’s ready to crush or powder and keep for later use. 

Cure the cilantro before long-term storage to minimize the risk of mold. To cure, place the dried cilantro in a glass mason jar. Shake the jar thoroughly daily to mix the contents after opening it to allow fresh air into the jar. This will help equalize the moisture content. You can also add a moisture absorbing packet if you’d like.

How To Harvest Coriander Seeds

Coriander pods
When ready for harvest, the coriander pods will be green to brown in color. Source: aftab

Even if you are not a big fan of cilantro leaves or find they taste like soap to you, you can harvest the plant for coriander seeds. Temperatures must be consistently over 75 degrees for the plant to flower, and at that point, it can reach heights of up to 20 inches tall. Once it has flowered, pods will form as the flowers fade. These should be green to brown in color prior to harvest. When the coriander seeds are ready, these pods drop the mature seed.

To harvest the seeds, tie the stems with their attached seed pods into a bunch and hang it upside down in a paper bag in a cool and dry place. The seeds will pop out over time and fall into the bag.

Keep your seeds in an airtight jar in a cool and dry place. Dried seed that hasn’t been ground can be stored for 3 to 4 years. For ideal flavor, grind dried seeds before using them in your recipes.


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