This pungent herb has a distinctive flavor with a faint undertone of anise.
Credit: Photo: Oxmoor House

SEASON: A cool-season herb for fall and early spring, it is available year-round in some climates.

CHOOSING: Cilantro is usually sold in bunches. It looks a lot like flat-leaf parsley, so be sure you read the label, and look for the thinner, brighter green leaves of cilantro. Or just smell it—the pungent, sharp, medicinal scent is hard to mistake—and avoid bunches that are wilted or have mushy leaves.

STORING: Place fresh bunches of cilantro in a produce bag in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. It will last up to a week. If cutting from your garden, snip as needed.

GROWING: Cilantro is an annual that prefers the cool season. For most gardens, early fall is the time to plant. If the climate is mild, it will be green and growing all winter, but hard, prolonged freezes will kill cilantro. If that happens, replant in early spring.

Start cilantro from seeds or transplants, planting in full sun and soil that is well-drained and enriched with compost. Growing your own cilantro is twice as nice as buying, because you can continually harvest the fresh leaves and, later, gather the seed heads, known as coriander. When the weather heats up and coriander bolts into bloom, don’t despair. Just wait until the flowers turn to green seeds and then to a dried brown form. Put cut stems in a paper bag to collect the seeds easily. Store coriander seeds in a small airtight jar or container. Seeds that fall into the garden will grow again in the fall or following spring. Once cilantro blooms and produces seeds, the plant dies, and you can pull it up to make room for something else. If you minimize mulching, plants will grow again in fall.