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


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Q: What can you tell me about the herb marjoram?

Sweet Marjoram

Sweet Marjoram

A:  There are three kinds of marjoram commonly used as herbs: sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana), pot marjoram (O. onites), and wild marjoram (O. vulgare) (see Oregano). Sweet and pot marjoram are the ones usually grown in herb gardens. The perennial plants are very similar, except sweet marjoram tends to grow upright while pot marjoram runs along the ground. Marjoram is similar to oregano, but it has a finer texture. This tender perennial has a dense, shallow root system and is grown as an annual. Marjoram attracts bees and flowers late spring to summer.  When planting pot marjoram, space the plants about 12 inches apart in the row, and sweet marjoram should be placed every 6 inches. Plants can be started early in the spring from seeds, cuttings, or clump divisions. The leaves are used fresh or dried; they are similar to oregano but more delicate. Marjoram is sufficiently attractive to make an excellent border planting for a flower garden. Aromatic qualities led to its historical use as a strewing herb which means it was spread across floors of homes and buildings. Marjoram has mild antiseptic properties and is often added to herb bath mixtures. The leaves and flowers are used fresh or dried in cooking many foods, including beef, veal, lamb, poultry, fish, green vegetables, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Marjoram can be used to flavor stews, marinades, dressing, vinegars, butter, and oils. The plant can be grown in containers in cold hardiness zones 9-10, in full sun and well drained, slightly acidic soil. Dried marjoram can be added to herb wreaths, especially culinary wreaths. It is said to have some medicinal qualities. In ancient Egypt, marjoram was used in healing, disinfecting, and preserving. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was said to treasure this herb. The Greeks called this plant “joy of the mountain” and used it to make wreaths and garlands for weddings and funerals. For more complete information about growing herbs in Florida, read the University of Florida publication:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02000.pdf