What Is Cilantro And Is It the Same As Coriander?

closeup of cilantro

The Spruce / Steven Merkel

Coriander is a double duty herb. Its seeds are known as coriander and its leaves are known as cilantro. This herb has a very distinct taste that is best described as a fresh-green spice, and it is a perfect addition for indoor and kitchen gardens.

Plant Details

Cilantro resembles flat parsley in its appearance and is sometimes called Chinese parsley. With its refreshing, cooling taste, it is easy to see why cilantro is used with the spicy dishes so common to Indian and Latin cuisines.

  • Botanical name: Coriandrum sativum
  • Common name: Cilantro, coriander, Chinese parsley
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: Annual, all zones
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, partial sun, and shade

Because coriander grows well in either sun or shade, it's very easy to find a place for it in the garden. However, the planting location depends on the climate. If you live in an area with very hot summers, locate the plants in the shade so they don't go to seed too quickly. A full sun location is perfect for areas with mild summers or until the temperatures begin to rise.

Most importantly, note that this coriander is an annual plant, so be sure to save some seeds for sowing next season.

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Watch Now: How to Grow and Harvest Cilantro

Growing and Harvesting

Cilantro can be grown in the garden, but many people prefer to grow it in pots. This extends the life of the plant because it can continue to grow if it's brought inside for the winter. It is an easy herb to grow indoors as well as outdoors, and starting it from seeds is easy.

Coriander likes to be grown in well-drained, loamy soil. It will bolt and turn bitter if grown at temperatures higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant it after the danger of frost has passed in spring, and enjoy it until the full heat of summer arrives. At this point, bring the plant indoors to keep it cool and continue growing.

Coriander is a short-lived plant. If you really enjoy it and want to keep it growing all year, sow seeds on a regular basis. If you harvest coriander seeds from your own plants, it's necessary to prep them before planting.

To prepare the coriander seeds for sowing, gently crush the seeds just enough to crack the shell. Then, soak the seeds in water overnight. Allow the seeds to dry, and plant them in well-drained soil.

Harvest the cilantro leaves with sharp garden scissors, cutting them off at a leaf node. To keep plants healthy and re-growing, ever cut more than one third of the leaves at one time. If you want coriander seeds, let a few of the stems go to seed, and then remove the the entire flower.

It is a good idea to grow several plants. This allows you to harvest the tender cilantro leaves from some plants while letting some plants go to seed.

person holding a bunch of cilantro
​The Spruce / Steven Merkel 
closeup of cilantro
​The Spruce / Steven Merkel
bunch of harvested cilantro
​The Spruce / Steven Merkel 
coriander seeds
temmuzcan / Getty Images

Uses

Cilantro is a common ingredient in Latin and Indian cuisines. The fresh leaves can be rinsed, patted dry, and chopped before adding them to a variety of dishes. Cook them in or use them as a spicy, fresh garnish for complex flavor such as tacos.

Cilantro can also be dried or frozen for long-term use. Freezing does retain more of the flavor, though dried cilantro is a bit more convenient to cook with.

To release more of the flavor from coriander seeds, roast the seeds in a dry, hot pan for a few minutes until the smell becomes very strong. Grind these seeds in a mortar and pestle, or herb grinder, before use.

Watch Now: How to Properly Store Fresh Cilantro