2.8 Coriander/Cilantro/Culantro

Photo: Coriandrum sativum 5. Latin name: Coriander/Cilantro: Coriandrum sativum
Culantro / Puerto Rican coriander / Spiny coriander: Eryngium foetidum (see 2.8.4)
Vietnamese coriander: Polygonum odoratum (see 2.8.4)

2.8.1 Growing coriander/cilantro

Also see http://www.henriettes-herb.com/archives/best/1996/cilantro.html

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
Coriander is a hardy, strong smelling annual native to southern Europe. It may reach up to 4 feet in height when grown outdoors.

Coriander needs full sun and plenty of moisture, and the soil should be deep, well-drained, moderately rich with a pH between 6 and 8.

Coriander is easily grown from seed, germinating in one or two weeks, and self sows well in the garden. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep, and thin seedlings to 8-12 inches apart. Sow seeds directly into the garden in the early spring, or into deep pots; coriander does not transplant well due to its taproot.

>I've read that the best way to deal with bolting is to do several plantings over a season.

From: dplatt.ntg.com (Dave Platt)
I would agree.

Start a few cilantro plants each month, harvest the leaves before they bolt, and then sacrifice most of the plants before they flower. Leave a few to flower and set seed - the flowers are very attractive to ladybugs, green lacewings, and other beneficial (predatory) insects.

I've found that having a few cilantro plants flowering around the garden provides an excellent defense against aphids.

> Does anyone know what conditions I should avoid to keep the cilantro from going to seed?

From: unknown
- If you plant the stuff really close together you'll probably get less bolting.

From: eaplatt.worm.hooked.net (Elizabeth Platt):
Don't let it get too hot--like lettuce, it's sensitive to heat. But, cilantro is an annual, so most pros advise planting several batches in succession, so that there's always some that isn't going to seed.

By the way, if you've gotten far along enough to worry about it going to seed, congratulations. All my cilantro is devoured, pronto, by the slugs and snails as soon as the first tiny leaves appear. Tastiest seedlings in the garden....

From: mrooney.mrooney.pn.com (Michael Rooney)
To avoid bolting, the hotter the weather the more it should be in the shade. There are also varieties that are designed to produce leaves and some designed to produce seeds.

>I've been trying to grow cilantro (Chinese parsley, coriander) for several years so that I can use the leaves in Mexican and Chinese recipes.
>However, all I ever get are a few leaves, then they go into business making flowers and seeds. I never get big bunches of lush, leafy growth as I've seen in produce departments of grocery and natural foods stores.
>So far I've tried the following: planting in very early spring / planting later / fertilizing / not fertilizing / using seeds of plants that were hybridized for more leaf growth
>Has anyone been successful in growing lush cilantro? If so, what are your secrets?

From: Jaime/WildFire Farm <jknoble.INTERSERV.COM>
First, if you want a continuing supply of cilantro, you should succession plant about every 3 weeks. I know you said you've used seed that is hybridized for more leaf growth, but here's the following info anyway.

To the more basic question of bolting - you need to get "slow-bolt" cilantro. There are two types: slow-bolt and regular. The regular is generally grown for seed, hence the speed to seed. The slow-bolt is grown for the leaves like you want. It still bolts pretty fast, though.

That's why the succession planting. I always use Shepherd's (I have no association with them other than as a consumer) because I find I get nearly 100% germination rates & theirs is the slowest to bolt of all I've found. [If anyone's found a slower bolt seed, I'd love to know about it.]

Look at the cilantro in the store, if it has roots attached you will see that it is only 10 - 12" high. It pretty much all bolts just about then. I grow cilantro for commercial use (as well as a lot for my own use) and generally pull it at about 12". I always pull it, not cut it because it keeps much better with the roots on and because it leaves space for the next planting. I do fertilize lightly once just after the first true leaves appear. It grows nicely in sandy loamy soil. I'm experimenting a little this year with light shade to keep it cooler in order to see if I can slow down the bolt even more without losing anything. It works well with lettuce, so I'm giving it a try. I'll let you know my experiment results in a month or so.

From Nancy Namowicz:
I'm in a suburb west of Chicago, so the winters here can be brutal. In 1997, I planted some cilantro in my flower garden just for fun. It grew and I let it go to seed (I was looking at it as more of a flower, albeit a delicate one, rather than a herb). What I have discovered is that in spite of our harsh winters, cilantro WILL reseed itself, and spread through the flower bed. Last year I was surprised to see it reappear, and this year, it has not only reappeared, but two additional plants, about 5 or 6 feet from the original plants, have sprung up. Interestingly enough, these latest cilantro plants are slow growing -- the plant that reappear in almost the same spot has quickly grown up and flowered; these other two, however, are appearing to be much more like the cilantro bunches you find at the food store. I also planted (this year) some cilantro in pots and have clipped those leaves for sauces, etc., leaving the plants in the flower garden untouched. Their delicate white flowers add a dainty note to the mixture of flowers I've planted next to the house.

2.8.2 Harvesting coriander / cilantro

From: dplatt.ntg.com (Dave Platt)
In my experience, the best leaves are the dense, wide ones which grow close to the ground. Once the plant begins to even _think_ about flowering, it throws up a vertical stalk, and starts putting out leaves which are much thinner and lacier. These leaves aren't anywhere near as tasty as the early foliage.

I've heard some people compare the taste of cilantro to Lifebuoy soap.
To my taste-buds, the thin upper foliage _does_ somewhat resemble Lifebuoy, and I don't like it at all. The denser low-growing early foliage, on the other hand, is utterly wonderful.

> OK, my cilantro bolted! Am I going to have to hand pick each of the little seeds to restock my coriander spice bottle or does someone have an easier way?

From: eberts.donald.uoregon.edu (sonny hays-eberts):
Take a brown paper bag, and place the seed 'umbrella' inside. shake heartily. Repeat for each 'umbrella'. This method is useful to harvest some seed, and keep the rest for hopeful volunteer plants.

For an even easier method, harvest the plant, then beat against the side of a clean trashcan. Most seeds should fall to the bottom. you'll need to clean it a bit, but it's lot easier than hand-picking. This method of course, harvests *all* the seed, as opposed to number 1.

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
It takes coriander about 3 months to produce seed - to get seed on plants grown indoors, grow under plant lights. The best leaves to use are the denser, lower foliage. Once the plant bolts, the lacy upper foliage should not be used, as it is not as tasty. Leaves should be harvested before the plant blooms, or seeds should be harvested when about ⅔ of the seeds have turned a brownish color. Cut the tops of the plant in the early morning while still wet with dew, to prevent the seeds from shattering.

From: rudy.cae.ca (Rudy Taraschi):
The way I do it is to dry the entire plant, seeds and all. I then get a large paper shopping bag, hold the dried plant by the stem and thrash it around in the bag. Most of the seeds usually fall off if the plant is dry enough.

From: mrooney.mrooney.pn.com (Michael Rooney)
Even better than a paper bag is the feet of panty hose that you or your SO has decided are too far gone to wear any more. They are great for putting over dill and cilantro stems to catch the seed. Just put the toe where the seed head is and a twist tie around the shin part where it is over the stem and you will catch almost every seed.

2.8.3 Using / preserving cilantro / coriander

From: snielsen.orednet.org (Susan L. Nielsen)
Not exactly on the matter of etymology, but as to the flavor of cilantro/coriander leaves, Julia Child has said, [pitch voice appropriately high in the head]: "I just can't stand it. It tastes like dirt." Other interpretations invoke soap. I find it quite fresh in flavor, and even take it straight off the plant in the garden. Of course, I nibble a lot of things as I dig, but cilantro is definitely one I enjoy. No accounting for taste.

From: nancy_moote.sunshine.net (Nancy Moote)
Cilantro goes to seed very quickly. You can eat the flowers, though. They taste like the leaves but lighter and sweeter. Or let them develop seed for baking, pickling, curries, and planting next year.

They grow so fast that you can plant seeds now for more leaf cilantro later this summer. Next year maybe try planting a few seeds every 2 weeks for a continuous supply.

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
Coriander is eaten in salads and as a pot-herb in China, and the leaves are often used in Mexican, Turkish, Indian, and some Chinese foods. Leaves are used in rice dishes, refried beans, salsa, curries, omelets, soups, and salads. The seeds are used for flavoring breads, cookies and cakes, sausage and meat dishes, plum jam, and herb liqueurs.

Leaves contain vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, fiber, niacin, thiamin, and 14-22% protein.

On news:rec.gardens.edible in May 2001:

From Bud Beckman <budbeck.uswest.net>
The seeds are great tasting and can be used in many dishes. That is why I grew cilantro, which is an overpowering herb to my palette.

From nicole <nicole.ocella.com>:
I like to use the unripened seeds in dishes. They taste like a cross between the leaf and the seed... lovely in any dish that calls for either.

From "Lynne" <lynne164.hotmail.com>:
Also the roots are used in Thai curry pastes - a basic ingredient in many Thai dishes. They're milder than the leaves but still impart an inimitable flavor.

herblady.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle)
Not only are the roots used, they are regarded as a medicinal part of the plant, more so than the stems and leaves. I'm not sure what they're supposed to do, but Thai friends in the past have always said that the roots are very medicinal.

'Lucknow' curry powder

1 oz. ginger, 1 oz. coriander seed, 1 oz. cardamom seed,
¼ oz. cayenne powder, 3 oz. turmeric.

Spicy Cilantro Butter

3-4 cloves minced garlic, 4 generous tablespoons chopped fresh
cilantro, 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers or 1 serrano chile- seeded and finely
chopped, 1 teaspoon lime zest (peel), 2-3 teaspoons fresh lime juice,
salt to taste, crushed dried red chile to taste, ¼ pound softened
unsalted butter (one stick)

Blend all together. Good with grilled or broiled fish, shrimp or steak, pasta, rice, squash, corn, and eggplant. Roll corn on the cob in the butter, then sprinkle with Parmesan and lime juice.

Cilantro Salmon

3 to 3 ½ lbs salmon
2 to 3 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 to 5 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 tomatoes in eighths
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Clean salmon, removing the head and tail. In a bowl mix together the remaining ingredients, reserving 5 tomato wedges, and stuff the fish. Line the fish opening with the remaining tomato wedges. Wrap the fish tightly with foil. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish or barbecue over hot coals.

From Alisa Norvelle <NORVELLE.uga.cc.uga.edu>:

When I buy cilantro for whatever reason, I often have much of the bunch leftover. This is an easy way to keep from wasting it:

Remove the leaves from the bunch of cilantro. Mash them in a mortar and pestle with cloves of garlic & salt. The ratio is up to you. I usually use about 2 cloves of garlic with ½ teaspoon of salt and as much cilantro as I can cram into the base of the pestle/mortar without making a mess.

Once you have this paste, you can roll it in saran wrap and freeze it, slicing off whatever you need for a particular dish.

Two uses for this stuff (measurements are approximations):

Lebanese Sauteed Potatoes

2-3 potatoes, diced
2-3 T of cilantro pesto stuff
olive oil
vegetable oil

Dice the potatoes small enough so that they fry fairly quickly, e.g., about the size of one of the keys on your keyboard.
Fry them in the vegetable oil. Remove and drain them as they get done. Drain the vegetable oil from the pan and add just a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Return the potatoes to the pan with the cilantro pesto.
Just saute until everything's a good serving temperature.

This never fails to be a crowd-pleaser. Folks will go *nuts* over it! And no, it is not a part of your fat-free diet.

Lubieh (another Lebanese dish, I don't know how to write it)

I make this vegetarian style. But this is the traditional way:
¼ lb meat
1 lb green beans
cilantro pesto stuff
olive oil
Lemon juice

Dice the meat into bite-size chunks. Cook it in a sauce pan until it is good and done--no pink. Add the green beans and a bit of olive oil. Cook them on a low heat until they begin to exude water. Add the cilantro pesto in about the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Squeeze about a half a lemon onto the meat & beans.

Even prepared the meat-eater way, the amount of meat in this dish is small for what most Americans-I-know think is a normal meat/vegetable ratio. Eat it as a meal unto itself or with rice, using pita bread as your eating utensil.

2.8.4 Which coriander / cilantro do you have?

From: dplatt.ntg.com (Dave Platt)
There's the "slow-bolting" or "leaf" cilantro, and the coriander - they're the same species, but they're different strains selected for different growth characteristics. Leaf cilantro grows more of the low, dense foliage, and it's not as eager to bolt to seed as is commercial seed-coriander stock.


From: endothyr.athens.net (Dennis O'Connell)
Also known as Puerto Rican coriander or spiny coriander. Leaves are 4 - 8 inches long, strap-like with serrated edges, very different from typical coriander. Taste is similar to (but much stronger than) cilantro.

From: afn23664.afn.org (Ray A. Orosz)
Finally, my culantro (Eryngium foetidum) woke up! I let some of it bolt, (Oh, boy does it bolt!), after the little flowers went away, I'm left with something cone-like where the flowers were. It appears they may be seeds, but I'm no sure. I'm also starting to get tired to get stung with the prickles around it every time I check to see what's happening. Are they seeds, or should I just cut them out and send them up the river?
Exactly, how does this thing reproduce?

From: Rastapoodle.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle)
Culantro has vicious seed heads, with prickles like hypodermic needles.
The seeds are within that nasty seed head. I just snip them off after they open and collect the seed. Cutting off the seed heads as soon as they form (early flowering stage) will result in lusher plants that spread faster.

From: Tristan Hatton-Ellis <Tristan.Hatton-Ellis.bris.ac.uk>
Eryngiums come from the same family (Umbelliferae, which also includes Carrots, Fennel & Queen Anne's Lace), but most Eryngiums are spiny and grown for ornamental reasons; the flowerheads are usually surrounded by several large spiny bracts which are often an attractive shade of metallic blue, silver or purple. Yours seems to be seeding very early, but then you are in a pretty warm climate! The cone-like structure is the seedhead, and is the best way of propagating Eryngiums. When it is dry the whole thing can be picked and the seeds shaken out. Fresh seed should germinate quite quickly; if you leave it it may need a period of cold to encourage germination.
Alternatively, you can take root cuttings, but since the plants dislike disturbance this is best done in early spring so the plants can establish again before summer.

Vietnamese Coriander

From: Rastapoodle.newsguy.com (Anya)
Vietnamese Coriander (Polygonum odoratum) is a low-growing spreading plant with tender stems and small light green leaves, and resembles a wandering Jew (Transcendica spp.). It has a pungent smell, not like coriander/cilantro at all. It likes wet, semi-shady locales.
It is used in Vietnamese cooking, in soups, stir-frys, etc. I have made a delicious vinegar with it. Too bad mine died, and I can't get it anymore. It is believed to be an anaphrodisiac, and the Buddhist monks use it a lot for this reason.
I don't know if it is a perennial in cold climates, better to pot it up and bring it indoors, as it is tropical.

From: Robert Lauriston <robert.lauriston.com>
In looking for a local source for the Trinidadian herb "shadon beni" (or "shadow beni"), I found that it is culantro (Eryngium foetidum), and is called "ngo gai" (saw leaf herb) in Vietnamese, and "recao" by some Puerto Ricans (though in Venezuela, "recao" means a mix of herbs). There are additional possible synonyms in Gernot Katzer's spice pages: http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/Eryn_foe.html