Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I am having trouble growing cilantro. Can you give me a couple of hints?

Cilantro Leaves

Cilantro Leaves

A:  Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, also known as Chinese parsley, is a form of coriander. While coriander is grown as an herb primarily for its seeds, the type of coriander referred to as cilantro is grown for the leafy portion of the plant. Cilantro leaves can be harvested early, once the plants reach 6 inches tall, and continuously thereafter until the plant dies. Cilantro should be grown in full sun to part sun and in well-drained soil, with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. In Spanish-speaking areas, cilantro (also spelled culantro) usually refers to the plant, but may also refer to coriander seed. The main problem you are having is the time of year. Here in Florida, we consider cilantro a cool herb. This means we will be limited to growing it in the fall and late spring. Once temperatures get above 80°F the leafy portion will fade out but you can continue to allow it to grow and produce the coriander seed in the warmer weather. Ground coriander seeds are the main ingredient in the Indian “garam masala” spice mix. The roots are even used in Thai curries. Many of us taste a soapy flavor when we eat the cilantro leaves.  It is believed to be caused by a specific fat molecule called aldehyde, which is also found in soaps.  Some scientists believe the soapy flavor is caused by an odor the herb displays.  Regardless, for many people cilantro is just not an herb they will be warming up to any time soon.   http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv051