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How to Harvest Cilantro Without Killing the Plant – Cilantro Pro Tips!

Here’s how to harvest cilantro without killing the plant! Harvest your cilantro the right way and your plant will keep producing continually, right through spring and summer. There’s nothing like growing your own fresh cilantro to add to all those yummy dishes you’re cooking!

Harvesting Cilantro Without Killing the Plant

So, how to harvest cilantro without killing the plant? Here are some pro tips. When harvested from the top third of the plant with a sharp tool, cilantro provides ample, tender, fragrant greens. Every week! From late spring to late summer. But – never harvest cilantro by tugging at the plant’s base.

Harvesting by cutting the top third of the plant prolongs the plant’s life! Water, mulch, and then drain well. And choose the right location and cilantro variety for your climate.

Cilantro-haircut by-Kathryn-Clover
Cilantro haircut by Kathryn Clover. Cilantro is one of our favorite cool weather crops! It grows perfectly in colder weather. And – if you harvest cilantro correctly, you can expect continuous growth. And abundant harvesting! If you want to learn more about this cool weather herb – then here are our best tips for batch harvesting. Green leaves ahead!

Cropping Cilantro

Cilantro originated in the Mediterranean and India. (Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, 1992, Sarah Bunney.) The fresh and green parts are high in Vitamin K and contain Vitamin C. The seeds are higher in minerals and fatty acids. Right now, I am talking about harvesting the green parts – the cilantro leaves and stalks. 

Cropping cilantro or coriander leaves (known as cilantro for this article) will prolong the life’s plant if done correctly.

Harvest only the top third of your cilantro plant, leaving the bottom two-thirds to form new leaves. Make sure at least half the previous amount of leaves get left. Not just stalk! Your hard-working herb needs enough leaves to keep growing and make you some more!

harvesting cilantro with sharp shears
Cilantro is one of our favorite companion plants for cold-weather gardens! And if you want to harvest cilantro without killing the plant – it all starts with a pair of clean garden scissors. Once your cilantro plant reaches around six inches tall, grab your pair of scissors! And a few paper towels. It’s time to begin harvesting your cilantro leaves. Harvest the outer layer of cilantro leaves first. That way – you provoke the cilantro plant to grow new baby cilantro leaves. Before long – you’ll have a constant supply of yummy and tender cilantro leaves. Get your favorite soup recipes ready!

Harvest Cilantro Regularly

Leaving cilantro to grow unchecked while you go on a long vacation does you and your herb no favors – your cilantro will bolt like a caffeinated racehorse! 

It will produce some frothy white flowers, and those previously tender leaves and stems will be too scarce and challenging to harvest. 

You can, however, eat those flowers in salads. Or leave them to produce coriander spice seed. We love coriander spice seed! It’s lovely – and very storable.

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09/27/2022 06:04 pm GMT

Harvest Cilantro Using Sharp Scissors

Use nice sharp, clean scissors to harvest cilantro leaves – don’t yank them out – as you may well uproot the whole herb, roots, and all. If you do this, it will be off to the garden center for replacement cilantro. (Though you can try to replant it and hope it recovers with a good watering.) I often remind my hyperactive seven-year-old son of this principle when gardening!

Read More – How to Grow and Harvest Lima Beans from Seed!

Harvest Cilantro from Mid-July

Regularly harvest leaves and stalks from mid-July onwards. Keep harvesting cilantro. Continue cropping the tender and spicy green parts until cold weather comes and plant growth slows. You should be able to harvest once a week and possibly twice (if your plant is as vigorous as an international footballer!) for most of the warm season.

fresh coriander cilantro growing in garden
Growing cilantro is more straightforward than many gardeners think. But – there are a few rules to follow. Otherwise – you’ll have bolting cilantro! Or – cilantro with an unpleasantly bitter taste. The top thing to remember is that cilantro loves cold weather! And it hates hot weather. Cilantro grows best in soil temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the garden soil temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit? Then the cilantro plant bolts. You’ll find that as cilantro bolts – it loses the fresh flavor. It also dies quickly after producing coriander seeds.

Watering Your Cilantro Plant

Keep your cilantro bed well watered! Cilantro is a herb that loves moisture – not so much as mint, but you want to keep it feeling fresh and loved. Use moisture retaining compost or water storage granules if your cilantro is in containers, as these dry out much quicker.

Also, make sure your cilantro has good drainage! I find holes poked in the bottom, and a few centimeters of gravel or crocks (smashed bits of pottery) will do for containers.

Mulch Where Possible

Covering the soil around your plants with straw helps reflect strong sunlight and slows evaporation. If your cilantro keeps trying to reach for the sky and flower early, it may need more moisture in the soil.

I push a finger in the garden soil under the cilantro, down to the depth of my nail (roughly one centimeter). If you can’t feel the garden soil getting damper, it’s time to water your cilantro babies.

blossoming cilantro flowers for coriander seeds
Here you see the white flowers of cilantro plantings. You’ll notice that the flowers attract beneficial pollinators. And – if your cilantro bolts, you’ll also have plenty of coriander seeds. One common mistake when waiting for coriander seeds – is harvesting the seeds too early. Don’t harvest the coriander seeds until the white flowers dry and turn brown. That gives your coriander seeds time to develop. Expect the cilantro plant to begin browning sometime around mid-summer. You can store your coriander seeds and dried cilantro in an airtight container. We prefer using glass mason jars. They work wonders for mouse-proof storage!

Growing Cilantro in Part-Shade

For leafy greens, grow cilantro in part-shade. Cilantro loves growing in the shade – especially if you live in a hot climate. Plant it where it will get early morning or late afternoon sun. (Those living near the Arctic circle may want to adopt this advice and plant in whatever sun you have.) 

If it is seeds that you most desire, by all means, plant them in full sun, where the cilantro seeds are going to get produced and ripen much faster.

Read More – How to Harvest and Dry Elderberries!

Cilantro Cultivars

Choose the best cilantro variety. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends Leafy Leisure and Cruiser for big crops of large cilantro leaves, if that’s what you’re into, rather than coriander seed. (Cruiser is also a market leader for commercially grown cilantro.) 

If you’re wondering why your cilantro is growing tall and upright while your neighbor’s batch is thick and bushy, it might be the variety that is the issue. Confetti and Santo are both cilantro types that grow tall rather than wide. Their elongated and upright growing nature doesn’t mean they are any worse than their bushier compatriots – but they look and taste different. It depends on what pleases your eye. And your palate!

Cilantro Spacing

Spacing is another reason for skinny cilantro. Have you left your plants enough room to spread out comfortably? Are they being shunted out of essential nutrients, water, or light by other plants, trees, or weeds? Sow thickly at first in late spring for leaf crops, but thin them out to a hand’s width apart for the seeds later (p176, Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Gardening Bible, 2012, Kyle Books) 

So what can you do to store and preserve cut cilantro?

Here are a few different ways of saving those lovely tender, aromatic leaves for cooking your South Asian-inspired dishes.

Managing Your Cilantro and Coriander Post-Harvest!

What’s the best thing to do after you harvest your cilantro and coriander?

We have a few strategies to help you get the most from your harvest.

Sound good?

Let’s continue!

Freezing Cilantro

Freezing them works best when you don’t mind if it is pretty cilantro because when it defrosts, it will be ugly cilantro! It will turn into yellow-green mush. But it’s still okay if you’re planning on mincing it up or adding it to a sauce. 

If you want to freeze your cilantro harvest, follow these steps. 

  1. Rinse well. 
  2. Then blanch (dunk) it in boiling water for a couple of seconds before dunking it in ice-cold water. 
  3. Dry it thoroughly on paper towels before freezing in a plastic bag or Tupperware container.
  4. (You can also dry on a baking sheet.)
homemade coriander and carrot soup with fresh bread
Coriander seeds have excellent culinary uses too! Coriander seeds have a slightly citrusy flavor that’s perfect for homemade soups and stews. Check out one of our favorite coriander and carrot soup recipes. It’s ideal for a late summer evening snack. It’s even better during the beginning of autumn! We also found another epic homemade pickle recipe with plenty of coriander. Homemade pickles are perfect for upgrading your next sandwich – and this recipe has loads of spicy herbs and a zesty flavor.

Cilantro Stems

We love standing the cut stems in water. If a perky, attractive-looking garnish is what you need (or if, like me, you live off-grid on a boat and choose not to use refrigeration for environmental / just plain stingy reasons), then stand your bunch of cilantro in a glass of water. 

I have done this with many cut vegetable stems, as you would do with a bunch of flowers. As far as your cut vegetation is concerned, it is still alive! If you are posh and have an actual fridge (ooh la la), place the glass of cilantro inside, with a plastic bag secured by elastic over the leaves.

Mincing Your Cilantro Harvest

You can also mince up your cilantro finely and mix it with olive oil. (Like a pesto!) 

Here’s how.

Put a 0.5-centimeter oil layer over the top of your cilantro oil mix. You don’t want to expose it to bacteria in the air. Store it in a jar, or freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray.

How to preserve cilantro in oil

Making Cilantro Salt

Mince finely in a blender and mix with salt, preferably decent salt such as sea salt or Himalayan rock salt, as the big rough flakes help break up the cilantro. The cilantro salt will keep for up to a year in the fridge! (Here’s a lovely recipe for cilantro and lime salt at Whole Lifestyle Nutrition.)

Cilantro Drying! WARNING! 

One last word about drying cilantro! Don’t even bother trying to dry cilantro greens! Unlike the seeds, the leaves and stems lose their scent and flavor once dried. More information on this in the comments!

fresh coriander and carrot soup in rustic bowl
Cilantro has flavorful leaves excellent for soups! The bushy growth of cilantro adds a complex flavor. A delicious flavor! We love tossing a bunch of cilantro leaves into our favorite chicken dishes. Cilantro is also perfect for Chinese cuisine – or Italian dishes. Fresh cilantro with tomatoes is also an easy and tasty snack. Or – consider homemade carrot and coriander soup!

Read More – How to Harvest Tomatoes at the Best Possible Time!

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to take scissors to your fresh cilantro plants. For cilantro harvesting, it’s the same as getting a haircut! As we all know, cutting does wonders for your hair. 

So – go out there and harvest your first crop of cilantro greens. And have fun cooking up some fabulous cilantro-flavored meals!

What about you?

How frequently do you harvest cilantro?

Or – maybe you have a little-known cilantro harvesting trick?

We’d love to hear your thoughts either way.

Thanks so much for reading.

And – have a great day!

Author

  • Kathryn Clover is an off grid writer, blogger, and forager that lives on a narrowboat with her son. Apart from teaching others about wild foods through her business Hedgewitch Adventures, she has managed and co-managed 4 community garden projects and lived in self built ecovillages for years. She is now Secretary of Community Energy Leighton-Linslade, a group aiding building owners in adopting sustainable energy. (In short, she is definitely a hippy.)

Carol L

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

I could not convert 1/2 (0.5) centimeter into ounces...do you know the amount in oz.? Thanks!

Elle

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Hi Carol! The measurement would depend on the size of the jar you're using. The main thing is the make sure the cilantro is covered with a layer of oil of around a 1/4 inch. I've uploaded an image (don't pay too much attention to my graphic design skills!) to 'show' rather than tell :) Hope that helps! Elle

Carol L

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

I purchase dried cilantro all the time: the scent is faint, however, when using it in cooking, I CAN smell AND taste the cilantro...Not sure why you want to discourage a way of preserving this herb...especially as it is used for toxin removal.

Elle

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Hi Carol! Are you using dried cilantro leaf or dried seeds? The seeds are perfect for drying - it's just the leaves and stem that don't fare so well. My favorite herb book 'How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life' by Isabell Shipard also lists cilantro leaf as unsuitable for drying. The seeds, however, dry exceptionally well. She mentions that Sawtooth Coriander (also known as Culantro or Mexican Coriander (Eryngium foetidum)) has much better leaf-drying potential because it retains its flavor, whereas the annual form of cilantro does not. I'd love to hear whether your dried herb is the leaf or the seed! Elle