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One of my favorite summertime treats is fresh salsa! It's so refreshing to taste the homegrown tomatoes still warm from the garden mixed with lots of garlic and onion. The tartness of the lime brings out the flavor, and the fresh, zesty cilantro pulls it all together making it mouth-watering and delicious. It's always nice to have cilantro to add a citrusy, fresh taste to dishes, and cilantro is a really easy herb to grow in the garden.
How to Grow Cilantro
Cilantro is grown for its leaves and for its seeds. I learned that the leaves were called cilantro and the seeds were called coriander, but in some parts of the world, the whole plant is called coriander. It is best to plant cilantro seeds directly in the ground rather than starting it indoors. Plant seeds after the last frost. It is quick to germinate and does not like to be transplanted due to having a long taproot. You can save seeds from year to year for planting. Cilantro is an annual herb but it reseeds itself easily, so don't be surprised when you have cilantro plants popping up in the spring. Because of this, many gardeners prefer to give cilantro its own space in the garden where it can reseed itself without being in the way of other plants.
Cilantro prefers cool and sunny weather and will begin to bolt or go to seed when the soil gets warm. It is possible to grow cilantro throughout the season by harvesting it often and growing it in succession. Also, make sure to cut off the flower heads before they begin to bloom so that the plant's energy can go into making more leaves. Cilantro leaves can be harvested about two to three weeks after it begins growing, and the coriander seeds can be harvested after about 45 days.
To harvest the leaves, wait until the plant is at least 6 inches tall and cut off the outer leaves. Harvest about once a week until the plant starts to go to seed. Once the cilantro flowers and the seeds develop, shake off the seeds into a paper bag and let them dry. The seeds can be saved for planting or use in cooking.
How to use Cilantro
Both cilantro and coriander have many uses in cooking. Use cilantro fresh as it loses most of its flavor when dried. Wash and dry the cilantro leaves before cutting them and adding them to a dish at the end of cooking. Cilantro does not save well, so use it fresh from the garden when possible. Coriander seeds can be used whole or ground. They have a more subtle, earthy flavor than the leaves of the plant. Try using coriander seeds in curries and other Indian dishes as well as Mexican dishes and pickles. Save the seeds in spice jars to keep them fresh.
Cilantro is such a great addition to so many dishes with its versatility and fresh flavor. Here is one of my favorite salsa recipes that is simple to make and really delicious!