Western Mediterranean native. Grows to 1–1 1/2 ft. tall and 9 in. wide. Its delicate fernlike foliage is topped by flat clusters of pinkish white flowers in summer.
Both fresh leaves (cilantro, sometimes called Chinese parsley) and seeds (coriander) are widely used as seasoning, and roots are used in Thai cooking. You can even eat the flowers. Leaves are popular in salads and many cooked dishes; crush the aromatic seeds for use in sausage, beans, stews.
Cilantro is taprooted and transplants poorly, so start from seed (including coriander seed sold in grocery stores). Grow in good, well-drained soil. In all but low-desert areas, sow in place in early spring after all danger of frost has passed. Cilantro grows and flowers extremely quickly (‘Delfino’, with finely cut leaves, and ‘Calypso’ are slower to flower). Keep it coming by succession planting every couple of weeks and trim flower heads as soon as they appear. Or, sow densely in bands 8–12 in. wide and use scissors to shear off leaves (almost to the base of the plant). Plants will regrow. You can also sow in pots. In low-desert areas, plant in autumn; cilantro will go to seed and die in late-spring heat.
If you are growing cilantro for seeds only, two or three plants is all you need. To collect seeds, pull up whole plants when seed heads begin to turn gray-brown; then put the plants headfirst into bags and shake them, or hang them over paper and let the seeds drop.
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