Want to know how to get two distinct flavors from one plant? Well, the plant known as Coriandrum sativum can provide just that. C. sativum is commonly cultivated as a low growing, vegetative herb known as cilantro that adds a savory flavor to many foods and dishes. However, not everyone knows that the seed produced by C. sativum is commonly referred to as coriander. Coriander is used whole or often ground as a spice to provide delectable flavor to many traditional and newer fusion-type meals. The herb and the spice come from the same plant, just different parts. For this reason, C. sativum is referred to with two different common names.
It is not uncommon for many plants and other organisms to have more than one common name. This is one reason why the scientific name of an organism is important. Cilantro is a Spanish word for C. sativum consisting of leaves and stems used in culinary delights. Coriander can include leaves and stems but more commonly refers to the dried seeds used to add flavor to foods. Coriander is the common terminology used by the British but has become more commonplace internationally over the years. C. sativum originated in Italy but is now grown worldwide.
C. sativum is not a difficult herb to grow as either leafy cilantro or the seed-bearing coriander. The same requirements and precautions for growing most herbs apply to this plant. Transplants are commonly sold as cilantro and can go into the ground in the spring after the last frost date. Seeds can be sown indoors for an early start or directly into the garden soil once the danger of frost has passed. When sowing seeds, use the recommendation of ¼-inch seed depth with the spacing or thinning of 6 to 8 inches apart. If planting in rows, use the guideline of 1-foot row spacing.
Cilantro, like many herbs, originates from the Mediterranean with its unique climate. South Carolina summers can provide this suitable climate, except for when there is a severe drought or high seasonal humidity. Whether referred to as cilantro or coriander, plants prefer at least six hours of sun per day. C. sativum grows successfully in well-drained soil with a pH of 6-7 and composed of a proportional amount of organic matter. A general rule of thumb for organic matter is 20-25% per cubic volume of soil. Light applications of a nitrogen fertilizer keep plants lush; however, avoid the tendency to over-fertilize. Once plants are established, an inch of water a week should be sufficient unless temperatures become extremely hot. Cilantro tends to bolt as plants mature late in the season and temperatures rise. The foliage can become bitter and less palatable, but on the upside, coriander seeds are produced as the plant completes its life cycle. C. sativum is really a two-in-one kind of herb. For more information on growing Coriandrum sativum and many other herbs, see HGIC 1311, Herbs. For additional information on drying and storing herbs, see HGIC 3086, Drying Herbs, Seeds & Nuts.
Looking for something to cook with all that beautiful cilantro grown this season? Look no further. Get saucy with your own Pico De Gallo style salsa. A simple and easy to follow recipe can be found at SALSA, PICO DE GALLO STYLE. Is a hint of coriander more to the liking and taste? Well then, try out this tangy recipe for SPICED CIDER BRINED PORK LOIN.