Growing Cilantro may be just the thing you want to do to be able to add some authentic flavour to your exotic asian food.
'What is Cilantro and what is Coriander'? you may well ask. That depends where you are. In America coriander refers to the dry seeds that we ground and put in curries. The fresh leaves are called cilantro. Here in Australia the term cilantro is not used, it's either 'coriander seeds', 'fresh coriander leaves' or 'coriander root'. The herb is also called Chinese Parsley in some quarters.
Some varieties of cilantro are developed for seed harvesting and others are slow bolting to prolong leaf picking.
Many people report difficulties growing coriander. The plant can be very fussy and sometimes just dies for no apparent reason. Try growing them in different areas of your garden and keep a diary to record weather conditions, watering schedule and other events. Sometimes difficult plants need to find their own spot. Let them re-seed and mind their own business in their favourite corner. Each generation will be stronger and more adapted to the conditions in that particular area.
Starting: Plant the seeds about a cm apart where they are to grow. Thin out the smaller plants as they grow and use these for cooking. The grown plants should be about 20 cm apart. Don't bother buying seedlings from the nursery. The plants are sensitive to changes and transplants and rarely survive.
Soil: The cilantro plant prefers well draining loam or compost.
Climate: Coriander plants are not frost hardy, but they don't love heat either. Grow in the cooler season in the tropics. Avoid humidity. I never saw any coriander where I grew up in Scandinavia, but I'd try growing it in a sunny protected corner during a northern summer.
Watering: Keep the soil moist and mulched. Don't let your coriander plants dry out.
Fertilizing: Feed plant but don't over do.
Special Care: Protect the coriander herb from wind.
Harvesting: Pick as you go, and pinch out flowers to prevent bolting. When you'd like some seeds, let the flowers be and wait until the seeds are brown and dry. Learn more about saving seeds.
Containers: The coriander plant is perfect for growing in a pot at least 20 cm deep to accommodate its tap root.
Indoors: Given the right conditions cilantro will grow nicely on your window sill.
Shady areas: It's more difficult to grow cilantro in shady conditions.
Pests and diseases: Not many pests go for cilantro. I have found that the seedlings sometimes die from 'damping off', which is a fungal disease affecting the young plants.