Coriander/Cilantro: Herb and Spice All in One
Best Tips for Growing, Harvesting and Using a Plant That's Both an Herb and a Spice
My first herb garden was planted years ago with familiar Mediterranean herbs including basil, parsley, mint, and thyme. I experimented with different recipes, and with each new cuisine I learned, there were companion herbs to plant. Southwestern and Asian cooking cried out for cilantro, herb of the year for 2017. Certainly an easy herb to find now, but not so a couple decades ago. I wanted to include this cilantro herb plant in my garden and looked for seed packets of cilantro. No luck. That’s because the packets were labeled as coriander, and I didn’t know then that cilantro and coriander were one and the same.
I did some research and found the answer to my question “Is coriander cilantro?” Cilantro refers to the leafy parts of the plant, and coriander seed refers to the seeds that form. So it serves as an herb and a spice. Both parts are equally useful. What a revelation that was! Now I was ready to plant this very unusual herb.
Growing Cilantro from Coriander Seeds
Plant Seeds in Spring or Fall
Coriander seeds stay viable for a long time so if you have a container in your pantry, they should be just fine to plant. They’re also available at garden stores.
Planting coriander seeds is easy. Grow in average, well-drained, moist soil. Plant seeds 1/4” deep, about six to eight inches apart. Cilantro likes the sun but not intense heat, which causes it to bolt. You’ll be pleased to know that pollinators love the cilantro herb plant.
Plant seeds in spring, and be rewarded with fast growing plants. For a continual harvest, count on planting coriander seeds every few weeks during the growing season. The reason? At some point, you’ll notice the cilantro herb plant getting leggy in the heat, and the leaves feathery and smaller. You can prune the plant some when the leaves are still large, but cilantro doesn’t take well to much pruning. The feathery leaves lose their signature flavor and soon produce tiny white umbels of flowers on top. Those white flowers eventually become coriander seeds.
Cold Hardy Herb
Cilantro is cold hardy, so it makes a great fall season herb. These plants remain leafy instead of bolting to seed since the days are shorter.
Plant seeds in very late fall when it’s too cold for germination. They’ll sleep happily through the winter and be one of the first herbs to pop up in early spring.
Harvesting and Storing Cilantro Herb and Coriander
Wash Before You Eat
Quickly rinse cilantro in a solution of three tablespoons organic cider vinegar to six cups water to remove bacteria. Lift out, rinse again and drain well. Pour a little water into a glass and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
Dry For Later Use
Dry the leaves the same way you’d dry other delicate herbs, like some basils, mints, and tarragon. Chop the leaves up and lay on a lint-free towel to dry away from light. The leaves will dry in a day or so. I find dried cilantro’s flavor is somewhat compromised, so I’m not a fan. But if you live in an area where fresh cilantro is not available, you might want to try this.
Harvest and Store Seeds Away from Light
To harvest the seeds, cut off the seed heads when they turn brown but before the seeds start falling to the ground. Put them in a paper bag and hang the bag until the seeds dry completely and fall to the bottom. Store in tightly covered containers away from heat and light.
I grind the seeds as needed in my small coffee grinder. After removing the ground coriander, I process a little baking soda in the grinder to remove the scent.
Cilantro Herb Benefits
Tame A Hot Tummy with Cilantro
Cilantro “cools” a hot stomach. Ayurveda herbalists claim cilantro bans intestinal gas and generally aids digestion. Cilantro helps remove heavy metals from the body, as well.
Researchers have identified a compound in cilantro (and coriander seeds) that helps kill salmonella bacteria.
Good For Your Flock
If you raise chickens, cilantro, with its antibacterial and antifungal properties, should be on your healing herbs list for chickens.
Is Cilantro Good For Rabbits?
There’s some debate here. Some folks say feeding a small amount of cilantro to rabbits is just fine; others feel that cilantro is too acidic. When my boys were little, we had a pet rabbit named Peter. (They were really into fairy tales at the time). Since I had a fairly large herb garden, we asked one of our farmer friends what herbs can rabbits eat, and cilantro was one of them, but in moderation. Oh, and Peter loved parsley, as well. Both of these herbs have a good amount of calcium, among other benefits.
Coriander Seeds Benefits
Coriander Seed Relieves Colic And Lowers Blood Pressure
Coriander seed is an ingredient in some gripe waters, which help relieve colic in babies. There are studies that indicate coriander seed can help lower blood pressure, making for a healthy cardiac system.
Eyewash For Styes
Coriander uses for healing include a proven stye home remedy. Make an antiseptic infusion with dried coriander seeds boiled in water. After cooling to room temperature, strain and flush the stye with the coriander water.
Cooking with Cilantro and Coriander
What’s The Difference?
To my palate, cilantro tastes a bit grassy and citrusy. It’s a world class herb, flavoring dishes in many cuisines, from Mexico to Thailand. Cilantro is a delicious addition to salsas, vegetables, grains, and dips. The stems of the cilantro herb plant are tender enough to be used. I like to stir cilantro into cooked foods right before I take them off the heat for an explosion of flavor. However, cilantro’s flavor can overwhelm if you use too much. You can always add more cilantro, but you can’t take away, so exercise caution until you find the amount that’s pleasing.
Coriander seeds have a lemony flavor. You’ll find them in sausages, pickles, pastries, breads, marinades and in Indian curry blends. I love adding ground coriander and cumin to roasted carrots.
Because of their different flavors and textures, neither are interchangeable in recipes.
Cilantro Herb Plant Look-a-Like
Look at Italian parsley and cilantro side by side, and it may be hard to tell them apart. Cilantro’s leaves are smaller and the taste is distinctively different from parsley.
I hope you enjoy these favorite recipes using cilantro and coriander. For more recipes using cilantro and coriander, visit my website abouteating.com.
Pineapple Tomato Salsa
So delicious as a dip or as a topping for grilled chicken, steak or fish. This recipe uses both cilantro and coriander. Go to taste on ingredients and seasonings.
- 1 fresh pineapple, diced, enough for two generous cups
- 2 Roma or garden tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup red onion, diced
- Couple handfuls fresh cilantro, torn into pieces, plus extra for garnish
- Jalapeno pepper, minced, to taste – start with one pepper
- 1-1/4 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- Salt to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Mix everything together but oil. Pour oil over and stir gently. Adjust seasonings.
- Garnish with cilantro.
- Refrigerate up to three days.
* A quick tip for easily seeding tomatoes is to cut the tomato in half vertically and scoop seeds out with a spoon.
Roasted Carrots with Coriander and Cumin
If carrots are young and tender, no need to peel skin. My family loves these carrots. Go to taste on seasonings.
- 1 pound carrots, left whole or cut into two-inch pieces, peeled if necessary
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Toss carrots with just enough oil to coat. Place in single layer on baking sheet.
- Mix coriander and cumin together and sprinkle over carrots. You may want to add a little more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast until tender and starting to wrinkle, about 35-45 minutes depending upon size.
What creative ways do you use cilantro and coriander?