Don’t let this delicate-leafed herb fool you; it offers a lot of flavor in small quantities. Most people either adore cilantro or they strongly detest it. Often thought of for use in homemade salsas and Mexican cooking, this herb is a must have for any herb gardener. The best part about adding a cilantro plant to your garden: You Get Two Herbs in One! While cilantro leaves are used in salsas, etc., the seeds of the plant are called coriander and they produce an entirely different flavor and are used in various types of dishes. Read on to learn more…
Cilantro is a cool weather annual, so it is best to plant it in the spring after the last frost or in the fall once the evenings are cooler. It can take full sun to partial shade. Most people think it is related to the parsley family, due to its name and similar looks, but it is actually related to the carrot family. It sports pinkish-white to lavender flowers. If allowed to go to flower in the spring, cilantro will reseed itself. Fresh cilantro needs to be harvested when the plant reaches about six inches high; pick from the top two to three inches. The seeds (which are called coriander) should be harvested as they ripen in the summer. Cut the whole plant and hang to dry in a brown paper bag. When ready to use, crush the seeds in a mortar.
It is wise to plant cilantro at various times (waiting awhile between plantings) so you can enjoy this herb throughout the growing season. Our summers are too hot in Raleigh for cilantro, but there is a little unknown plant called culantro that can be used as a substitute for the cilantro leaves. Although the two plants look nothing alike, their aroma and taste are very much the same (culantro may be a bit stronger). Culantro is best grown in afternoon shade in moist, well drained soil. Unlike cilantro, culantro is from the parsley family.
– Leaves are used in make up and perfume, flavoring gin, salsas, thai dishes and sauces. Used a lot in Mexican dishes. When cooking with cilantro, add it at the very end to preserve freshness.
– Seeds are used in gingerbread, various cookies, sausages, stews and chicken dishes.
– Flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects to your garden.
Just for Fun
– Originated in the Southern Mediterranean. Coriander (which are the seeds of the plant) were found in Egyptian tombs.
– Is mentioned in the Bible, where coriander seeds are compared to manna. The Hebrews used this as the bitter herb for the Passover meal.
– The Greek word for cilantro is koris, which, when translated means bedbug (supposedly the smell similar… we’ll take their word for it!).
Happy Herb Gardening!
Fairview Greenhouses & Garden Center