Cilantro or Coriander
Did you know that cilantro and coriander are from the same plant (Coriandrum sativum)? Cilantro is typically the name given to the leaves while coriander is the name used for the seeds. The flavors, scents, and uses are very different. Cilantro is an annual herb of the parsley family best known as an ingredient in Asian and Mexican foods while coriander is used in sausages, curries, pickling spices, soups, fish, and desserts. Coriander seeds may be used whole or ground with a mortar and pestle.
Sometimes there is confusion between Italian or Flat Leaf Parsley and Cilantro because the appearance is similar. The scent is very different – cilantro has a distinctive scent. Cilantro was an acquired taste for me. I did not understand why the stinky herb was so popular. Then I had some tasty pico de gallo containing cilantro and I was hooked. I have since used it in many other dishes including scrambled eggs, chicken, salads, and an addition to my homemade guacamole.
I get many questions about how to grow cilantro. An important thing to know is that cilantro does not like hot weather but can handle some frost. Plant cilantro in early Spring in well-drained soil. I like to replant about every two weeks to keep a good supply of cilantro coming. When the weather gets warmer I plant in part shade to keep the plants cooler. Towards Fall, cilantro can again be planted in a sunnier spot.
You can begin harvesting leaves with there are at least 6 leaves per plant. Cilantro grows leaves from the inside of the plant so ideally you would harvest leaves growing on the outer edges of the plant. Like many annual herbs, continual harvesting of the leaves reduces the chance of flowering and may extend the harvest of leaves. If you want coriander seeds or you didn’t remove the flowers and the seeds formed, harvest the seeds when they are a light brown color. Be sure they are completely dry before storing for later use.
Cilantro leaves are best used fresh. The leaves lose flavor when dried. If you choose to freeze the leaves use them immediately from the freezer – do not thaw. Wash and pat dry and freeze in freezer bags or blend until smooth and freeze in ice cube trays. Either way it is easy to just remove what you need for a particular recipe.