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Featured Plant – Cilantro and Coriander Are The Same!

Did you know that cilantro and coriander are the same thing?!

Cilantro

The plant called Coriandrum sativum is really the combination of two herbs in one. The leaf portion is known as cilantro and used in savory dishes such as rice, chutney, beans or spicy sauces. But the seed of this plant is called coriander and used to flavor pastries, cakes, breads, pickles and curries. Cilantro is used fresh and coriander is dried. The flavorings are so different that you would never know they came from the same plant.

The dark green leaves of cilantro have a very distinctive flavor that is pungent, spicy and almost citrus-like. It pairs well with the cool flavors of mint and citrus but also does just as well with the hot flavors of chilies and ginger. Cilantro is commonly used in Latin American, Indian and Southeast Asian food.

For some, the strong flavor of cilantro is an acquired taste. If you have never used cilantro before, you definitely want to start out slow until you can learn to judge its strength. Too much will overpower a dish. It is usually added at the end of cooking times or just sprinkled over food just before serving because it loses its flavor when heated.

The leaves of cilantro also lose their flavor when dried. You should always use it fresh and can find it in the produce section of the supermarket.

For some unknown reason, cilantro is always placed right next to the Italian parsley in the produce section of the supermarket. Have you ever noticed that? Unfortunately for the busy shopper in all of us, there could not be a more inappropriate place to store it! Cilantro and Italian parsley look almost identical and if you are not paying attention you will grab the wrong one! When you purchase cilantro, do a quick sniff test to verify you have picked up the correct herb. Parsley has little fragrance, but cilantro has a very distinctive aroma that cannot be missed.

Store fresh cilantro in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. To use, rinse under water, pat dry and coarsely chop the leaves. The leaves do not need to be removed from the stem. The stems are soft and carry the same flavoring, so they can be added into recipes as well.

You can use cilantro with seafood and meat. It is also great with avocados, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, corn, mangoes, papaya and chilies. It pairs well with mild herbs such as mint, parsley, chives and basil, but does not work well with strong herbs such as rosemary, oregano or thyme.

Now as for coriander…the seeds of the plant. Coriander is used in baking. It is always found dried (whole or ground) in the spice section of the supermarket. A teaspoon or less is usually all that is needed for a recipe. Some say the flavor is similar to sage with a hint of lemon. But I think it has a flavor all its own. It reminds me of cumin. But you have to taste it yourself to decide how you like it.

Want to grow it?

Cilantro is an annual that grows in full sun and reaches 12 to 18 inches tall before sending up flower stalks. It makes a great border plant and does very well in containers. In warm weather, the plant will bolt and set seed very quickly before dying off. If you wish to harvest the seeds, be sure to keep your eye on the plant or the seeds will ripen quickly and scatter before you have a change to get them.

You can buy seeds for a “slow-to-bolt” variety. However, my experience is that it will STILL bolt…You just get an extra week or two before it takes off.

Seeds are available from:

Territorial Seed Company

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.