The Usefulness of Cilantro

Cilantro Flowers
Cilantro is a mainstay of our cooler season garden. We love having it in meals and it also provides a pretty green spot in our garden. But besides eating the leaves, did you know about all the other parts you can eat? And did you know that it’s thought to be an aphrodisiac? And helps with digestion? And is the oldest herb mentioned in literature? Who knew?

We typically grow cilantro from seed in late winter and fall and it always grows healthy and large. We put it in full sun and provide it with moist soil and it grows to about a foot tall. During the times when we’re really on top of it, we’ll plant a handful of seeds every few weeks so we have a constant supply of it. But once we have had our fill and the season starts to change, it sends up these beautiful white flowers.
After the flowers come, they develop little round seed pods that when dried are commonly called coriander in America. In other countries both the leaves as well as the seedpods can be called coriander, so make sure to read your recipes carefully to find out what part of the plant they mean. Dried coriander seeds are commonly used in Indian curries. We’ve tied ours upside down until they fully dry. We’re looking forward to some delicious curries this winter.

While I knew about eating the leaves and seeds, I just found out that you can also eat the roots. I read about that in Ruth Reichl’s book, Comfort Me With Apples(which is a fantastic read). On her trip to Thailand, she discovers them making stir fries with cilantro root. We haven’t tried this yet, has anyone else? At first glance, they don’t look especially appetizing, but we should give it a try one of these days.
Cilantro Roots
The taste of cilantro is pretty distinct. Do you like it? Or do you hate cilantro? You might not if you are of European heritage. It’s been said that those of European descent don’t care for it, and thinking of it, cilantro or coriander has never been a big hit in Europe. My mom can’t stand the stuff, but me, oh I really enjoy it. What do you think of it?

Update: If you are having troubles with your cilantro bolting, you may want to try this Slow Bolt Cilantro variety.


Filed under books, Leafy Greens, what we've learned

9 responses to “The Usefulness of Cilantro

  1. Cilantro is my favorite! Thanks for the useful info about drying it and using the pods for corriander. We’ve never had really good luck with Cilantro. It just always bolts too fast. One day it’s small and the next it is huge and has flowers. But now I know what to do once it flowers.

  2. My first lot is just going to seed, and second lot is ready to eat, I planted the first lot, transplants from a friends garden, and the second lot just appeared. (A Thai lady used to live in my house, my bets on that she grew it before me.) I eat it all, leaves, stalks, flowers and seeds, and yes roots. I really like it in thai curries, like a green curry with chickpeas.

  3. I love cilantro as much as I loved reading Comfort Me With Apples. Actually any of Ruth Reichl’s books. I missed the part about eating the cilantro roots though. Thanks for all the great info. I may take the jalapenos I planted that have not done a thing and grow cilantro instead. Thankfully the potted serranos have been generous.

  4. sinfonian2

    It’s ok in salasa, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite. Of course, I am first generation American born. My folks came from Europe as children. But my mother loves it. It could be a girl thing, hehe.

  5. I LOVE cilantro in salsas and in curries, unfortunatly its the one plant I cannot seem to be able to get going for the life of me. It will grow maybe 4-5 inches before bolting. I’ve been leaving it alone then shaking the seeds out hoping it will resow until the climate is *perfect* and I get more leaves then flowers. So even tho I’m drowning in tomatoes I still have to go buy cilantro *pouts*.

    Parsley is another tough one…altho this year I did get some to grow in a large planter I set under the drip of our central AC, so its constantly getting a dribble of water, and I snip off anything that starts to resemble a flower stock and its still putting out greenery.

    hey Sinfonian, arent you on the Freedom Gardener Network as well? 🙂

  6. asonomagarden

    I don’t know what the secret to growing cilantro is where it won’t bolt right away. We haven’t had too much of a problem with that…Hmmm, maybe it’s all in the timing. Planting when it’s cool enough? I don’t know.

    However, I have heard of a slow growing variety of cilantro, which you can order here. This might actually be the one we grow.

  7. MH

    If it’s of any help for you to know. When the root zone of the cilantro plant consistently reaches 75 degrees F. (24 C), the plant will begin bolting. Possibly using a light colored mulch to reflect some of the sun’s heat and a heavy application (3 in) could help mitigate this. Partial shade is also another option, however, when the air temp is well above the aforementioned temp, there’s not much you can do about the bolting except keeping the mulch moist.

  8. Pingback: 5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Eat « A Sonoma Garden

  9. Pingback: Planted « A Sonoma Garden

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