Cilantro is an easy-to-grow herb for the culinary herb garden. When it flowers, it provides nectar and pollen for pollinators and beneficial insects. Even better: Saving cilantro (coriander) seed is super-easy! Here’s how to do it.
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Cilantro is an Eager Volunteer
How often do you get volunteer edible plants in your yard? Tomatoes and squash are some of the most popular. Volunteer crops are good; saving their (free) seed is even better! Growing cilantro is an easy herb from which to save the seeds. This year cilantro volunteered itself in the strawberry berm in our edible front yard, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. So I set out to save some of the seeds.
Cilantro and Coriander
Hey, did you know that cilantro and coriander refer to the same plant? Cilantro refers to the leaves (the herb), while coriander refers to the seed (the spice). I use cilantro leaves in salsa and Thai-inspired dishes, and I like growing coriander seed for use as a spice powder in curry dishes.
Plant cilantro seeds in the spring. Cilantro likes the cooler spring and fall weather, and those are the best times to harvest the leaves. In the hot days of summer, it will flower and then go to seed.
The plant is in the carrot family, and the carrot family flower is an umbel – an umbrella shape with a mass of tiny flowers. The flower is a favorite of beneficial insects – tachinid flies, hoverflies and parasitoid wasps.
When I discovered I had cilantro growing voluntarily this spring I harvested some and then let the plants grow to about 3 feet tall and flower because watching it swarm with the beneficial insects is reassuring, knowing that they’ll do my gardening work for me.
When the plants die back, save the coriander seed–some for the spice rack and some to plant next year. You don’t need to grow a lot of cilantro to reap a decent amount of coriander seed.
It’s a good rule of thumb to wait a few days after a rain before harvesting so the seed has a chance to dry out sufficiently and will store properly without getting moldy.
Easy harvest and free seeds for many years to come!
What seeds do you enjoy saving from your garden?