Some people love cilantro, others hate it. Theyre not just being picky, their taste buds tell them it tastes like soap. For those that love it, though ...
Cilantro is also known as green coriander, for when it goes to seed, it produces a spicy seed we call coriander. I think that seed was the center of old-fashioned jawbreaker candies, a differently flavored hot shot at the end of the sweet.
Rodales Encyclopedia of Herbs says this plant, botanically known as Coriandrum sativum, was so-named after the bedbug because it emits the same unpleasant odor that bedbugs produce. I think that unpleasant odor exists while the plant is growing, and for that reason, it is not a great house or deck plant.
I dont find the odor of mature leaves unpleasant, however, and theyre used often in salsas, other Mexican and South American dishes, North African and Southeast Asian cuisines. The latter seem to use the roots, perhaps more than the leaves.
Growing it for the leaves is a frustrating endeavor since the plant bolts quickly to flower and seed in hot weather, and then the flavor diminishes. Some plant breeders now have cultivars on the market that dont bolt as fast as the regular old cilantro, but I grew one of those called Calypso this summer, and I didnt use the leaves because they didnt look like regular cilantro leaves. It bolted before I realized that was supposed to be cilantro.
There are variations of cilantro, usually added at the end of cooking. They include culantro (Eryngium foetidum), a thorny version; Vietnamese coriander or Rau Ram (Polygonum odoratum), a water-loving perennial, and quillquina (Porophyllum ruderale). Quillquina is also called Killi, Papalo, Papaloquelite, Tepegua, summer cilantro and Bolivian coriander.
Quillquina grows wild in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, but residents of those states usually use cilantro instead. South Americans and Mexicans use quillquina fresh, not cooked. Pores on the leaves release an oil bearing a distinctive flavor.
Could a person to whom cilantro tastes terrible eat any of the variations without problems? I dont think so. A friend who dislikes cilantro tasted my culantro and had the same aversion.
Cilantro is one of those crops that you can grow in a container indoors, and plant a new pot every two weeks to maintain a good supply. Our local supermarkets also carry bunches of cilantro in the produce department.
Flat-leaved parsley looks similar to cilantro, but the flavor and aroma are quite different.
Margaret Lauterbach: email@example.com or write to Gardening, The Idaho Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707