Cilantro is a garden herb with a very unique scent and flavor. Because of this pungent quality, cilantro is either loved or hated. The leaves are a well known salsa ingredient. The dried seedpod is called coriander.
About This Plant
Coriandrum sativum goes by many names: cilantro, coriander, Mexican or Chinese parsley. The green, leafy part is the herb, called cilantro, is often the "secret ingredient" (along with cumin) that makes Mexican food taste authentic. The dried seedpod is known as coriander and is usually used as a spice in baking and desserts. Native to Egypt, cilantro is one of the most ancient herbs still cultivated.
This annual plant does best in cool weather. Cilantro grows 2 to 3 feet tall and thrives in moderately rich, light, well-drained soil in full to partial sun.
Plant seeds half an inch deep and 2 inches apart. Germination may take 14 days or longer -- just when you're about to give up, you'll see tiny green shoots. Continue reseeding every three weeks or so for a continuous harvest, since the slightest spring warmth will make the plants go to seed. Sowing in a broad space instead of rows enables easy harvesting by cutting a swath.
Don't be overly generous with fertilizer. Too much nitrogen produces less flavorful foliage and may delay the ripening of the seed. Ideal conditions include well-distributed moisture and even temperatures throughout a growing season.
Harvest fresh leaves once the plants are at least 8 inches tall by cutting outer leaves and allowing the inner growing leaves to continue producing foliage until plants go to seed. Dried leaves lose their fragrance, but you can freeze them in water (or make cilantro pesto) for use later. To maintain dense foliage, choose a type slow to go to seed, such as `Slo-Bolt´.
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