How to harvest cilantro without killing the plant?

Cilantro is an extremely versatile herb used in a range of different cuisines. It’s a natural staple additive within the Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean countries. Cilantro adds freshness to any meal, and its earthy fragrance is quite noticeable. It can be used in a range of different ways, including as a base flavor within stews, as a soup garnish, in salads, and in chutneys, to name a few.

Moreover, it is a very important element ingredient for heavy metal detox. Learning the process of growing cilantro is one of life’s greatest joys if you are like me and use this wonder herb often. However, harvesting the plant without killing it is a bit tricky. Lucky for you, that’s what we’re here for.

How to harvest cilantro without killing the plant?
How to harvest cilantro without killing the plant?

So let’s have a look at how you can enjoy your cilantro plant repeatedly without having to start from the beginning every time you harvest. It’s a great beginner’s skill to master and enjoyable to follow as a kitchen gardener or even the more traditional outdoors type!

What is Cilantro?

Cilantro is confusing because its name is used differently depending on your country. In the US and a few other places, cilantro refers to the leafy part of the coriander plant. Furthermore, in the US, coriander refers to the seeds (coriander seeds) of the same plant. In most other parts of the world, though, coriander refers to the plant as a whole. Identically, the seeds are also known as coriander seeds. So for argument’s sake, let’s just say that cilantro is the leaves of the coriander plant! The plant itself is delicate, green, and has flat parsley-shaped leaves.

It has an earthy, citrusy flavor. The leaves are usually used as a garnish as the flavor loses its girth the longer it is cooked. On the other hand, the coriander seeds are used as an aromatic base for many different meals.

What is Cilantro?

Some benefits of its use that isn’t just its taste include lowering anxiety, improving sleep, lowering blood sugar levels, and detoxing from heavy metals.

Growing Conditions for Harvesting Cilantro

Before learning How to harvest cilantro without killing the plant, it’s important to know the ideal condition to grow them.

If a cilantro (coriander) plant is grown under its optimal conditions, it can be harvested once a week and for an indefinite period. However, there are some key factors, that must be considered when setting up a cilantro plant for sustainable growth. 

Growing Conditions for Harvesting Cilantro
Growing Conditions for Harvesting Cilantro

Weather Conditions

Cilantro thrives best in the cooler seasons. The optimal temperature for growth is between 50°F and 85°F (10°C to 29.5°C), So either late spring or early fall will see the best results for a cilantro plant. Depending on the growth location, though, cooler temperatures may not be an option.

The best way to tackle this is to plant in a semi-shady area, so the plant receives some respite from the heat. It’s also ideal to try to plant with a bit of a windbreak. Cilantro stalks are generally gangly and can easily be blown around if the wind becomes too strong.

Heat Exposure

Cilantro loves the sun like most plants. 4-to 6 hours a day of direct sunlight is optimal. If it’s too hot, though, they won’t last as long and will have more of a bitter flavor. The Sun that is too intense can cause the plant to bolt. Bolting is where a plant will produce flowers and seeds instead of leaves. Sadly, no leaves mean no cilantro, so keeping an eye on heat exposure is vital. 

Soil Preparations

Cilantro can tolerate a range of soil types. Sandy soil that is light and has great drainage would be the first preference. Monitoring nutrient levels and moisture is key to ensuring that a cilantro plant can thrive in its new earthy home.

Compost and/or organic matter can be added to the soil and churned down to a depth of a minimum of 18 inches. Level off the grow area and sow the seeds around ¼ inch deep. Cover each seed with a lightly pressed layer. Try not to plant around fruit-bearing plants such as tomatoes and peppers. They don’t go well with nitrogen-bearing plants. Instead, basil and mint are great neighboring herbs. 

Watering Schedule

Cilantro thrives best in a moist soil bed. Ideally, it’s best to check the soil every couple of days to ensure that it is still a little springy. Aim to give the plants about 1 inch of water once a week. It’s best NOT to drown the plants but make sure that the beds have enough to soak in and last days. The same principle goes for both potted and bed-planted cilantro. 


The recommended amount of space between each plant will differ depending on what you want to harvest.

  • Leaves – ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart.
  • Seeds –   ½ inch deep and 8-10 inches apart.

Regardless of use, the rows should be around 15 inches apart. 

When to Harvest Cilantro?

Cilantro has a handy method of letting a grower know that it’s ready to be harvested and/or used. Of course, you could go all nerdy and try to count the estimated number of days, but there are many varying factors. A cilantro plant should be full of edible leaves around the 45-70 day mark as a rough guide.

When to Harvest Cilantro?
When to Harvest Cilantro?

Otherwise, this plant offers a much simpler visual to ensure that you get the timing right every time! As the leaves grow, they are flatter and fanned out like a flat version of parsley. You should be looking for the phase after this where the leaves sort of go a little bit more lacy or stringy. They will also be around 6-8 inches.

At this stage, the flavor will be more full, which is great for adding to food. If you’re like me and use cilantro every day, it’s probably wise to stagger their growth, so you have a constant supply.

How to Harvest Cilantro Without Killing the Plant?

One of the biggest problems with harvesting herbs like cilantro is that we use all the leaves and throw the plant away. We assume that it’s the end of the plant. A great skill to learn in this situation is the process of harvesting the plant in a specific way so that it continues to grow.

As a result, you end up with a longer-lasting supply. Furthermore, you don’t have to go through the whole seeding and nurturing process again. You’re skipping the early stages just by tweaking a tiny part of your harvest method. Depending on the amount of this amazing herb you want to harvest, here are some tips to maximize your yield.

Harvesting Cilantro in Small Quantities

Harvesting smaller quantities requires minimal skill. It’s as simple as taking a sterilized pair of scissors or garden trimmers and trimming your desired amount of the herb. Once they reach about 6-8 inches, they are ready to enjoy.

Ideally, you should be looking to target the larger, more bushy leaves towards the outside of the plant. Carefully cut the stems of these leaves down to about an inch above the soil. As you remove these, it will allow the inner leaves to see more daylight.

In effect, the plant should start to bush out even further. Keep in mind to only use what you need and leave enough there, so the plant has the chance to keep growing. There is around a 4 month period where you can enjoy a single plant before it bolts, and the time will be up.

Harvesting Cilantro Large Quantities

On the other hand, harvesting larger quantities requires a little more patience. It is possible to cut a cilantro plant back entirely and grow it back, but it will take some time. To do this, simply trim all leaves down to about 1-2 inches and keep the soil moist and the air humid as you would normally grow a plant of this nature.

As mentioned earlier, it’s ideal for staggering your cilantro plants so you can harvest one plant and move on to the next and so on. That way, the first plant will have the chance to grow back, and you will still have a supply. As long as the plant doesn’t bolt, you can continue to reap the rewards for the 4 months. 

How To Store Cilantros Correctly?

There are a few different storage steps that you can take to ensure that your cilantro lasts longer. Depending on which path you go down, you can have your plant last between 1 and 3 weeks.

How To Store Cilantros Correctly?
How To Store Cilantros Correctly?

Cleaning them up for storage

Whether your cilantro is store-bought or from your garden, it will most likely need to be cleaned up and washed. This type of plant usually contains a bit of sand or grit that doesn’t taste the best, so it’s worth removing. 

  • Washing – Salad spinners are the easiest to use as they require minimal effort and can also dry the contents with the same motion. You can also use a sieve, careful not to pulverize the leaves as you rinse them. Ideally, you should change the water a few times to help remove any remaining grit.
  • Drying – The salad spinner can pretty much take care of this process. If you don’t have one, then remove the cilantro from the sieve and lay it out on some paper towel to air dry. 
  • Chopping – Cut the leafy parts away from the stems and separate them. You’ll mostly use the leaves as garnishes in salads, soups, etc, and the stems can be used for slower cooking methods like broths. Once divided, either cut the leaves down to your desired size or add all parts into separate airtight containers. 

I have seen people use a smaller holed colander as a hack to separate the leaves from the stems. You can poke the stem end through the inside of the colander toward the outside and pull. As you pull, the leaves should separate and land in the colander. There’s also a cool fork method to test out. Give it a try!

Make use of a Refrigerator

When it comes to storing cilantro in the fridge, it can last up to 3-4 weeks if done correctly. If you are in a rush, you can wrap a whole unwashed bunch in some paper towel and lay it in a plastic bag. Seal it up, and it can last a week like that.

On the other hand, you can take your previously washed and trimmed plant and do the same. This time, spread the chopped herb out on the paper towel and gently fold the edges over, creating a small ‘gift’ if you want to call it that. Add that to an airtight container, and they can last upto 3 weeks.

I usually take them out each week and check that they are still ok, and I change the paper if necessary to freshen them up and remove any parts that have been wilted and discolored. 

Keep it in Water

Keeping your cilantro in water is another great option that allows you to grab it after trimming and washing the amount you desire. Keep the stems and leaves attached and add them to a mason jar with enough water to cover the whole stem. They should resemble a vase full of flowers. Cover from leaf to jar base using a plastic bag and leave it in the fridge until required. This method is great for daily usage. 

How to Freeze Fresh Cilantro?

Adding your fresh cilantro to the fridge to keep it fresh will only buy you so much time with this amazing herb. Freezing is the next level, and I will ensure that it lasts for much longer! The best way to freeze your cilantro is to cut the leaves and stems into even smaller sizes than in the previous methods above.

Keeping the leaves and stems separate, add them to ice cube trays. It’s even advisable to have 2 separate trays so you can easily distinguish them when it comes time to use. Top each cube area up with either water or olive oil depending on what you wish to use them. Leave them in the freezer until they are frozen, then transfer them into resealable freezer bags to save on space.

Again, keep the bags separate for later usage. This method will ensure that they last around 6 months. Cilantro will lose its color and texture using this process, so don’t be alarmed if it looks different when used. The taste will remain the same once thawed out.

How to Dry Fresh Cilantro?

Another fantastic way to use cilantro is as a dried herb. It’s versatile and can last a good while if done correctly. You’ll get at least 3 months of extra life from this superb little flavor enhancer. You can dry cilantro out using a few different methods.

First, it’s a good idea to clean, trim and separate the cilantro as we went through previously in this article. Next, you can either dry them out using.


  1. Layout a layer of paper towel on a microwave-proof plate
  2. Carefully arrange your cilantro on the paper towel in a single layer (Separate leaves and stems for later use)
  3. Add another layer of paper towel flat over the cilantro
  4. Microwave on high for 1 minute (800w). Rearrange if necessary
  5. Microwave in 15-second intervals and check after each interval to see if the cilantro is dry enough

Conventional oven

  1. Preheat your oven to 230-250 °F (110-120°C)
  2. Lay a sheet of parchment/baking paper out on an oven tray. The wire racks are better for airing out, but the normal metal trays are also fine.
  3. Gently and evenly layer out the cilantro on the paper.
  4. Bake it for around 30 mins. Check at around 20 mins, so you don’t burn them to a crisp
  5. Make sure they are adequately dry and crumbly to touch. Let them cool for a further 10 mins outside of the oven.

Regardless of the method you use, crush them up with either a mortar and pestle or your fingers. Add them to a spice jar or sealed container for later use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

01. Are Cilantro Flowers Edible?

Cilantro flowers can be eaten, but they are only tasty when fresh. Their flavor isn’t as intense as the leaves, but they can be a good addition if you are low on leaves. They can help cool down the spice level of your dish, and in addition, they can increase a dish’s richness. 

02. What Grows Well With Cilantro?

Cilantro can attract beneficial insects to its companion plants. It grows well with multiple other water-loving herbs such as basil, chervil, and parsley. These herbs have a similar need for the amount of water and sun they receive.

Tomatoes, potatoes, and legumes are great companion plants in the larger range. Tomatoes can be a great shade plant to help cilantro continue to thrive a little longer into the warmer months. Dill and anise are also great to buddy up with cilantro. Lastly, leafy greens can be grown together for extra defense against garden pests!

03. What Does It Mean When Cilantro Bolts?

Not just cilantro, but when any plant bolts, it’s the stage that it goes through where it starts to produce flowers and seeds. It stops producing its leaves or fruit. It signifies the end of that specific plant cycle.

Some occurrences can make a plant bolt faster, such as heat. Cilantro is known to bolt faster than other plants because it thrives in cooler months, and the heat can trigger the process if not shaded. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as the seeds can be reused. 

04. How long does a cilantro plant last?

You can usually get 2-4 months out of a cilantro plant. It all depends on the conditions in which it is grown in. Again, heat will see that its life cycle is cut shorter, and it thrives best in cooler spring and fall-type temperatures.

05. How to use cilantro?

Cilantro can be used in a range of different ways. It can be used fresh in a salad or as a soup condiment, and it can be used as a base additive in slow-cooked dishes. It’s great in stir fries and can be a fresh taste in an oil fusion. The imagination is your only limitation!


Looking back, cilantro is fresh, versatile, and a wonderful addition to the garden to buddy up as a companion plant. It’s simple to grow; maintenance is as easy as trimming and waiting for regrowth. Even prepping and storing this wonder herb is welcomed by beginners.

I’ve always got at least 3-to 4 plants on the go and a freezer drawer full of cubes on a regular basis. You just can’t go wrong if you gain the basic knowledge and skill to nurture these types of plants. Hopefully, this article has helped you to learn how to harvest cilantro without killing the plant! See you at the next one!

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