Coriandrum sativum is a versatile plant that can be used in many ways. It’s best to think of Coriander as the seed used as a dry spice while Cilantro is the green herb leaf. And even though Coriander/Cilantro is usually associated with food from warm climates it is much better seen as a cold growing plant if you want the leaf instead of seeds.
The fresh green seeds are spectacular to eat as they are soft and tend to pop in your mouth like capsules releasing the fresh green cilantro leaf taste along with a burst of the intense dry coriander flavour. It is worth growing it for this as well as the fresh green leaf and dry seed. So don’t worry if your plant does go to seed too quickly as this is all really tasty stuff!
And don’t forget the roots which have a really nice separate flavour too. ie. Just dont throw anything out! … … Except that really rancid water that develops when they are kept in containers in your kitchen and they break down. They do last a while in a container with water if pulled from the ground – but you do need to clean the water out every 12 hours to keep them fresh.
Some people hate both the taste and smell. I have come across a few that cannot stand the flavour of either seed or leaf.
It grows quite fast and easily in a cold climate as long as it gets lots of sun and a bit of ground heat when you put the seed in initially. And then just plenty of water and nitrogen and it will grow leaf like crazy. IF it drys out at all – even a little bit – it will slow down growth and likely immediately start to bolt to flower.
The flowering stalk leaves are more finely divided in nature and quite distinct from the usual wider large flat leaf and you will see the thick flower stem forming and rising above the rest of the plant. The flower stems and leaves are quite tasty too but it means that the likelihood of you getting any more major green leaf growth is past.
You can see some flowering stems here in a pot grown coriander plant.
All up it’s a fairly easy plant to grow once you get the feel for it and realise it’s better to grow in cold or cooler weather – or VERY fast with lots of water and fertiliser in warm weather.
It does need a fairly moist but open soil in full sun to grow well.
Having re-read this it all sounds a little contradictory… Basically the cold inhibits the urge for the plant to go to flower so you get lots of good edible leaf on slower growing plants in cool weather… but on the other hand… they will grow really fast with lots of water in the sun and heat in a warm climate but are also likely to go to flower and seed very quickly.
They seem to usually germinate ok at above about 15c (approx 60F) so if you are growing them direct in the soil in a cool climate you need to make sure the space is very sunny or sheltered where the soil surface can warm up during the day.
I collect seed by letting the flower stems almost dry out on the plant. When the seeds get to the light green stage and a few of them are drying out you trim and bag the whole flowering stems and let them dry out in a woven bag hanging up somewhere fairly dry and out of the sun.
Then you can simply reseed next season by tipping the bag contents out onto a prepared plot or pots. I like to grow them in large pots at home as they are less likely to dry out or get too extreme a temperature range in the soil and the root systems can develop quickly to a large size.
The round things are the coriander seeds – the rest is just stem chaff left from drying them out. They will settle to the bottom of the bag if you shake it about a bit.
I find they are better not transplanted, but instead germinated where they will be grown (either in the ground or a pot) so there is little chance of them being affected by the change in watering and warmth etc so they keep growing fast and don’t go to seed – which often happens when you transplant them – with the shock.
Coriander/Cilantro – Coriandrum sativum
Culantro – Eryngium foetidum
The thick leaved Eryngium foetidum is used as an equivalent leaf herb in warm or hot climates as it will stand up to hot weather easily and produce a great deal of leaf matter. it is thick and almost succulent in nature and I have found it does not like a cold climate much. It tastes a lot like a combination of the Cilantro leaf and Coriander seed combined.