Coriander – or cilantro as it is also called – is a herb you either hate or love. But for those of us who love it, learning to harvest coriander seeds will ensure you have a continuous supply of herbs and spices in your kitchen.
For many, this nutty, zingy flavor with just a hint of citrus is a must in Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Mediterranean cooking. The Cilantro/coriander combination is like an herb and a spice rolled into one!
But the seeds are, of course, also ideal for starting more cilantro plants. Letting some plants flower and form seeds is a win-win and a greener way to garden.
Quick summary: Let your cilantro plant flower and wait for flowers to turn into seeds and turn from green to brown. Cut stems and hang them upside down in a paper bag. The seeds collect in the bag as they mature.
So, let us address the elephant in the room. I used to call the entire herb coriander. But this led to confusion talking to fellow gardeners.
These days, I refer to the green parts of the herb as cilantro and the seeds as coriander.
And it makes sense as the two parts of the plant are used very differently.
Even the search engines get confused about coriander vs. cilantro. If you came here looking for information on how to harvest cilantro leaves, check out this article: How To Harvest Cilantro For Maximum Yield (Cut-and-Grow-Back)
But harvesting coriander seeds from your cilantro plant gives you three options.
- Save the seeds to grow more plants,
- Use the fresh green seeds before they mature and turn brown, or
- Toast and grind the mature seeds and keep them stored indefinitely to add flavor and depth to your dishes whenever you please.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get going.
- How to harvest coriander seeds in 7 easy steps
- When to harvest coriander seeds
- Dry the coriander seeds
- Seeds for next year & fresh leaves – we harvest both
- What to do with green coriander seeds
- How to dry green coriander seeds
- Let plants go to seed to grow more plants
- Succession planting coriander seeds
- Harvest your cilantro plants regularly
- Summing it all up:
How to harvest coriander seeds in 7 easy steps
- Let your cilantro (or coriander) plant bolt and set flowers
- Allow flowers to turn into seeds
- Cut the stem a few inches below the seed head when the seeds turn from green to brown.
- Place the cut stems upside down in a brown paper bag
- Use a piece of string to tie the bag shut around the cut-off stems
- Place the bag in a dry and cool area with good ventilation
- Seeds will drop off into the bag as they mature
When to harvest coriander seeds
When the cilantro plant bolts, it sets delicate white flowers.
The flowers only live for a short while. And even though the small white flowers are edible, it pays to be patient.
A couple of weeks later, we can see green berry-looking bulbs forming.
As the green bulbs mature, they become mature and ready-to-harvest coriander seeds.
We harvest the coriander seeds when the seeds turn from green to brown.
When we harvest the coriander seeds, we invariably get other plant matter with the seeds.
Some people rinse their seeds in water, but I recommend simply picking them clean using your fingers.
Dry the coriander seeds
Before we can store seeds, we need to ensure they are dry.
If the seeds are not dry, we risk mold or fungus forming when we store our seeds for later use.
This is also why I do not recommend rinsing your seeds in water.
Drying the seeds is easy. Place them on a piece of cloth or paper and leave them at room temperature. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures, and allow a week or so for the seeds to dry properly.
Seeds for next year & fresh leaves – we harvest both
When you learn to harvest coriander properly, you will soon have plenty of coriander seeds. You will have enough for planting new plants and to use for cooking.
I was first introduced to coriander seeds as a spice when I started to grow cilantro from seeds. One of my plants bolted in mid-July (as they do), and I decided not to fight it.
The result was lots of seeds – both green and brown. And I found uses for it all.
Use fresh coriander leaves as a garnish and in fresh salads with and without bulgur or couscous. The taste is fresh with a hint of citrus or lemon.
The brown coriander seeds offer a much richer, fuller, warmer, and spicy taste and are perfect in curries, soups, stews, and dry rubs. The brown coriander seeds should be saved whole and ground just before use.
What to do with green coriander seeds
Green coriander seeds – or green cilantro seeds if you prefer – are a true delicacy; as far as I know, you cannot buy them.
You need to learn to harvest coriander seeds if you want green seeds.
Harvest the green seeds when the color is clear and vibrant green. Use them within a day or two, or they start to mature and turn brown.
Green coriander seeds offer a citrusy tang with nutty undertones.
Crush the green seeds to release the flavor and add them to a mix with oil and other spices. Store the mix in cubes in the freezer for instant access to a burst of flavor on tap.
Or add them to a bulgur or couscous salad for a new taste dimension. This is a favorite way to use them in our household.
So the next time your coriander plant bolts, do not fight it. See it as the next step in this beautiful herb’s plan to deliver wonderful flavors.
How to dry green coriander seeds
When cilantro plants bolt, the flowers will soon be replaced with green seeds.
The green seeds will turn brown on the plant, but sometimes we do not want to wait.
The easiest way to dry green seeds is to cut off the stems below the crown.
Leave enough stems to place the crowns in a brown paper bag and tie the bag shut around the stems with a piece of string.
Hang the paper bag in a cool and dry place with good ventilation. When the seeds turn brown and mature, they will fall off and collect at the bottom of your paper bag.
Gently shaking the bag can help the seeds loosen and fall off.
Collect the seeds and store them in an airtight container. You should always store coriander seeds whole. Place the container in a dry, dark, and cool location.
Let plants go to seed to grow more plants
When you let a plant or two bolt and flower, you will have lots of seeds to harvest.
And plenty will be left over, even if you use some brown coriander seeds for spices and green seeds for flavor and salads.
But this is a good thing. For two reasons:
- Succession plant coriander seeds for continuous harvest
- Harvest plants aggressively, knowing that more is coming soon.
Succession planting coriander seeds
Succession planting is a fancy word for not planting all your coriander seeds at once.
Plant your seeds every 7-10 days and let the plants develop.
This way, you will have several new plants at different stages of development.
And when you are running low on seeds, let a plant or two bolt and set seeds.
Should you end up with too many plants, you can easily make friends by giving away pots to friends and family.
Harvest your cilantro plants regularly
When you grow cilantro, it is important to harvest the plant regularly.
Harvesting the plant regularly will make the plant grow back bushier and more robust.
You can harvest as much as ⅓ of a mature and healthy plant.
Regular harvesting will delay the plant bolting if you only want fresh green cilantro leaves.
Cilantro plants that are harvested weekly will give good harvests for several weeks.
When you harvest your plant, you start from the outer stems and work your way in. Do not just grab a third of the plant and cut.
Use sharp scissors when you harvest unless you harvest leaf by leaf. When you harvest individual leaves, it is easier to pin them off.
Learn more: Cut-and-come-back cilantro harvesting
Summing it all up:
- Coriander seeds are harvested from flowering cilantro plants
- Coriander seeds can be enjoyed green or ground up as they mature and go brown
- Saving seeds from your plants is a sustainable way to grow more plants
- Ground dry coriander seeds just before you use them to retain flavor and aroma.
I hope you will allow at least one of your cilantro plants to bolt and flower to harvest coriander seeds next season.