Cilantro: Where in the World
habitat and range for cilantro

Cilantro is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia.

Cilantro: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about cilantro

Cilantro is an annual herb in the Apiaceae family. It is a soft plant growing to 50 cm (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the centre of the umbel longer (5–6 mm) than those pointing toward it (only 1–3 mm long). The fruit is a globular, dry schizocarp 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in) in diameter. The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds.

common names & nomenclature
Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander, also deriving from coriandrum. It is the common term in North America for coriander leaves.

Also known as:
chinese parsley, coriander, coriander leaf, coriander cultive, kotambri-beeja, kusbara, hu sui, dhanyaka, dhana, gemeiner coriander, dhane, dhano, haveeja, kishniz, dhanyak, dhania, koriyun, kothimbir, nau-nau kotimiri, kustumbari, kottamalli, kushniz kottampalari, kottumbari, kottmir

Cilantro: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting cilantro

Cilantro grows in full sun with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8; it will tolerate light shade in the South and Southwest where the sun is intense.

Prefers well-drained, fertile soil.

Cilantro needs its own space in the garden where you can harvest and then let it go to seed. Plant it in a bed devoted to herbs where it can reseed, or in a corner of the vegetable garden.

Harvest cilantro’s foliage continually in the cooler months of spring and fall and through winter in areas without hard freezes. Harvest by cutting the leafy stems near ground level; they will be 6 to 12 inches long. Avoid cutting more than one-third of the leaves at one time, or you may weaken the plant.

Harvest the seeds by clipping the brown, round seed heads; place upside down in a paper bag. In a few days, the round husks will dry and split in two, dropping the edible seed inside. Don’t delay seed harvest, or the weak stems will fall over. Dry seeds and leaves thoroughly.

Store dried cut leaves or seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Cilantro: The Rest of the Story
cilantro history, folklore, literature & more

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a flowering plant with feathery leaves that is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. The leaves and seeds of the plant are quite different in characteristics and etymology. As the genus name suggests, this herb is also referred to as coriander. To add to the confusion, the herb is also known in certain regions as Chinese parsley. To clarify, the entire plant, including the seed, is generally referred to as coriander across the globe. In America, however, the leaf of the plant is called cilantro and the seed is known as the spice coriander.

Although handfuls of this herb are tossed into soups, stews and rice and vegetable dishes in Latin America, Asia and Africa, it is not as well received in other regions, particularly North America. According to scientists, people who lack the culinary experience of cilantro may perceive its flavor very differently. This has led to the belief that you either love cilantro, or you hate cilantro. Social media chimes in with a Facebook group I Hate Cilantro and an opposition group of merchandise on Cafepress that states I [Heart] Cilantro.

If you’re at all suspicious of the taste or smell of cilantro, it’s for a very simple and scientific reason. The aroma and flavor of the herb is due to the presence of fat molecules called aldehydes, the same molecules produced as a byproduct from making soap. So, unless you’re accustomed to a Mediterranean diet that has included plenty of cilantro for a period of time, your brain searches for previous culinary and olfactory experiences as a frame of reference to make an interpretation. Unfortunately, the only comparison some people can come up with is the smell of soap or hand lotion.

Should this stop you from getting acquainted with the herb? Certainly not! No curry, salsa or guacamole would be complete without at least a small sampling of cilantro to balance the flavors. Remember too that change is good. The same scientists that explain why the brain may repel cilantro when first introduced also say that, with repeated exposure, the brain will rewire itself to form new patterns of experience. Hint: Japanese studies show that crushing the leaf before adding to foods converts the offending aldehydes into aroma-less agents.