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Plant Profile: Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Perhaps you noticed that the genus name for cilantro is Corindrum. Yup, cilantro and coriander are from the same plant. When you use the leaves, you call it cilantro and when you use the seeds, coriander, so this is a double-header herb. The leaves are the real draw for me and I love them on all sorts of food, my favorite being shrimp in cilantro pesto. Cilantro is probably most closely associated with Mexican but is also found in the food of the Middle East, south Asia, and China. The intense cilantro flavor of the plant’s root is popular in Thai cooking.

The use of coriander goes back to ancient times. It was found in King Tut’s tomb, is mentioned in the Bible in regard to manna, and was recorded on one of the Linear B tablets from 2nd millennium BC Greece. With such a illustrious ancestry you would think that it is easy to grow but, unfortunately for many of us, it presents a challenge. Flowering is triggered by increasing day-length so if you buy a plant in the spring it will quickly grow, flower, and die with little time allowed for harvesting the leaves. The best solution is to start plants indoors and get them outside right after the last frost date. Then start more seed in late summer for a fall crop.

Type: Annual herb.

Bloom: Small white flowers are borne in lacy umbels in spring and fall.

Foliage: Bright green, pinnately compound, roundish leaves resembling flat leaf parsley.

Size: 24-30” H x 12” W.

Light: Full sun to part shade.

Soil: Fertile, light, well-drained; pH 6.6.

Fertilizer: Use water soluble 20-20-20 every two weeks.

Care: Water weekly during dry spells. Harvest leaves as often as you need them; puree and freeze the surplus. To obtain seeds, let the flowers go to seed, hang and dry the flower heads.

Pests and Diseases: Mites (remove with strong spray of water)

Propagation: Seed (direct seeding is best).

Companion plants: Caraway, Anise.

Outstanding Selections: ‘Festiva’

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