Kids can grow cilantro seeds in a pot on the patio or in a window box after the last frost in full sun or part shade. Cilantro grows quickly and doesn’t like to be transplanted as it has a taproot. Cilantro makes a great companion plant, as in the picture above where it is planted around a nectarine tree with kale, collards, and parsley. Cilantro has been cultivated for thousands of years; ½ pint of cilantro oil was found in the Egyptian tomb of Tutankhamen. When kids plant seeds in their raised bed veggie garden, cilantro will attract beneficial insects, like hoverflies that eat aphid larvae. Kids can make successive plantings every three weeks for a steady supply of fresh leaves, as this herb is popular in recipes from around the world. When dried, the leaves lose much of their flavor, but fresh from the garden the leaves have a citrus savory taste and are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. Cilantro leaves are fabulous in guacamole, black beans, and rice.
Kids get two seasonings in one with cilantro! Cilantro has a short life cycle and will bolt and turn to seed in hot weather. Kids can snip off the top of the main stem when it starts to produce flowers to send energy back into the leaves. When the plant flowers and produces seedpods, kids can cut the seed bearing stems when half the seedpods have changed from green to brown. Hang the stems indoors in a cool dark place inside paper bags for a few weeks until the pods are completely dry. Kids can shake the pods to release the large round seeds and store them in an airtight glass jar. These seeds are the spice called coriander that is used in Indian and Thai curries. Whole seeds last for a year and can be dry roasted and chopped or ground for a welcome nutty accent for lentils, mushrooms, or rice. These seeds are an aid to digestion and have been used in cooking for thousands of years.