The key to a superior end product when preserving your herbs is to harvest your herbs at the peak of freshness. In the case of cilantro, this plant requires moisture so the optimal time to harvest is when it is cooler out with a bit of dampness, such as early morning or evening.
It should be noted that cilantro leaves are best used fresh as they quickly lose their flavor when dried. Many experts believe that drying isn’t worth the effort.
Cilantro Prep for Any Preservation Method
After gathering your cilantro leaves, rinse them under running water to remove any debris.
Shake off the excess water and lay them in a single layer on paper towels. Allow plenty of space between the leaves. Cover with another paper towel and allow them to fully dry.
Freezing Method: Because the flavor of cilantro is not preserved when drying, freezing is probably the best method of preservation if you can’t purchase fresh. Freezing cilantro is easy. All you need to do is separate the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and toss the leaves into an airtight, freezer-safe container. Clear freezer bags work well. Use frozen.
Air Drying Method: To air dry cilantro, you will need to harvest the complete stalk. Bundle the stocks together and secure with a rubber band. Now you simply need to find a cool, dry, dark (or at least away from direct sunlight) place to hang the bundle until it dries. If you want to dry individual leaves you can place them on a window screen that isn’t being used.
Oven Method: To dry cilantro in the oven, preheat to 100°F. Arrange the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet, allowing plenty of space between the leaves. Pop in the oven leaving the door slightly ajar to prevent moisture from building up. Check frequently. This is a fast drying method and the leaves can quickly become singed. When the leaves crumble easily they are ready.
How to Dry Coriander
When the cilantro plant bolts, the seeds it produces yet another delightful spice called coriander. In order to harvest your coriander seeds you need to wait until the plant and seeds turn brown. Cut the seed stalk from the plant and toss it into a brown paper bag. Shake the bag to loosen the seeds. Now that you have your seeds, you will need to pick out all the stems and any other debris.
You can store the seeds in an airtight container and use them as is, use a mortar and pestle to crush them for individual use, or use a small coffee grinder or pepper mill to make up a batch of ground coriander for storage.