Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), the fresh coriander leaves, is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia and was first cultivated in 2000 BC.
It was grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and was one of the most popular spices, even in ancient Egypt and Greece.
The ancient Egyptians believed cilantro could be used as food in the afterlife, while the ancient Greeks ate it as food and used it as an ingredient in perfumes.
The leafy plant was brought to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century and soon after to the United States.
Sometimes called Chinese or Mexican parsley, different types of cilantro are now officially required ingredients in Tex-Mex recipes or Mexican fish dishes. They are also often used in Asian cuisine.
Cilantro is part of the Apiaceae family, which includes celery, cumin, carrots, and parsley. Annual cilantro has a bold citrus flavor and is used as an herb. The dried seeds of the same plant, coriander, are used as a spice and have a distinctly different flavor.
Although it is produced in almost every country in the world, the most important growing regions of this plant are the United States and Mexico.
The latter is the main world exporter; in the United States, California is the leading producer, followed by Arizona, Oregon, and Washington.
However, since it grows all over the world, there are several different types of cilantro, and where you live will determine which kind of cilantro is best for you to cultivate.
All of the different types of cilantro are still Coriandrum sativum, with only slight variations in preferences and growing characteristics.
Additionally, all parts of cilantro are edible, but the leaves and seeds are often the ones eaten. However, not everyone will like the taste of cilantro.
Fun fact: Cilantro is one of those herbs that people either love or hate, without compromise. According to medical studies, the reason could be genetics. Some people can create an enzyme that reacts with compounds in cilantro and creates an unpleasant rancid or soapy taste.
Cilantro Or Coriander?
First, let’s clarify what cilantro is. There is often a lot of confusion about what cilantro is, what coriander is, and how they differ. That’s fair enough because they’re both actually the same plants and have many names.
Thus, the Coriandrum Sativum plant has very tasty leaves and seeds, which are used in cuisines all over the world. In English, cilantro tends to refer to the leaves of the plant— the green plant that you all know.
The seeds of the plant are the coriander seeds, which you will see as a spice or ground into powder form.
The confusion arises because, in many parts of the world, the whole plant is called coriander, so the herb is also known as coriander.
The Spanish word for coriander is called cilantro, which is what we borrow in English and call the leaves, but we still call the seeds coriander.
In India, they differentiate coriander leaves and roots by calling the coriander leaves the term “dhania.”
The seeds are very flavorful and can be used fresh — while still green — or more mature and dried. Not disputing the fact that the whole plant is edible, the stems are also very tasty and perfect for sauces, and its flowers are perfectly palatable and beautiful!
Cultivation Of Cilantro
Although different types of cilantro can be grown in different climates, temperatures between 50 and 80°F are ideal. The plants can survive minor frost but not exposure to high temperatures.
Cilantro is grown year-round in California, with peak harvests occurring from March through mid-November. In the Coachella Valley and Yuma in Arizona, it is harvested from November to March, and in Oregon and Washington from May to November.
Once germinated, seedlings need about an inch of water per week for optimal growth and leaf development. Furrows or tape will prevent overwatering and disease. Plants are usually ready to harvest 40-45 days after sowing.
In general, cilantro can bolt quite easily. Bolting is when the plant decides to seed, so it will send up a strong stem which will flower and then produce seeds.
At this point, the leaves begin to lose their flavor and sometimes become very bitter. This is an indication of the end of the plant’s life cycle, so if cilantro begins to flower, you should harvest the leaves as soon as possible.
Cilantro usually begins to bolt in summer as temperatures rise and days get longer. If you live in a warm place where it gets hot much before summer, cilantro will bolt sooner.
Even if it is not too hot, your summer days are long, and it will also provoke cilantro to bolt. Luckily, there are many types of bolt-resistant cilantro, as you’ll see as you read.
Cilantro has many varieties such as Leisure, Long-Standing, Terra, calypso, Lemon, Caribe, Delfino, Slo Bolt, Jantar, Moroccan, Santos, and Costa Rica.
If you need plants that won’t flower when the humidity is too high, choose Santos and Slo-bolt, these are bolt-resistant species.
Let’s take a look at the different types of cilantro to see which type is best for the climate you live in and what flavor profile you’re looking for.
Different Types of Cilantro
1. Leisure Cilantro
Let’s call the leisure cilantro the standard flavor cilantro. You can eat the whole leaves, stems, seeds, and even flowers.
Leisure is the most popular and common of the different types of cilantro. Most of the time, the cilantro you see at the grocery store will be leisure cilantro.
This type of cilantro was specially developed to be a popular variety, so it produces a large number of leaves and bolts quite slowly. It is bred to limit flowering in hot weather. Plus, as the name suggests, this species is the easiest to grow and requires a bit of maintenance.
It has the shape of a feather, round tender leaves, light green in color, and a flower stalk in the middle. It also has a spicy, aromatic, light, and sweet taste.
2. Indian Coriander (Dhania)
Despite its name, this plant still produces cilantro leaves. As with all the different types of cilantro plants, this one grows delicious leaves that can be sweet and slightly citrus, which will eventually flower and produce seeds that will be harvested like cilantro.
Native to the Indian subcontinent, this variety bolts quite quickly. This means that the leaves are not available for as long, and the seeds are produced quickly.
Because this plant works like this, the seeds play a much more important role in Indian cuisine than the fresh leaves. They are mound-shaped and rounded.
It will be perfect if you buy seeds produced in India; they are very different from the other cilantro group in temperate climates.
You’ll soon love sauce with cilantro dipped in Tikki or Indian Snacks. And here’s a cheeky Indian recipe for you: Roasted Indian coriander with carrots, then puree and add to carrot soup, and for a sweet flavor, add a little orange juice.
3. Calypso Cilantro
Calypso cilantro tastes similar to Leisure cilantro but is highly valued for its growing properties. These plants are particularly heat resistant, which is why they take time to flower.
And this is why they create large leafy bushes. In addition, the leaves also regrow very quickly after harvesting.
The cilantro gardens turn green during the cooler months in Southern California. This variety is vigorous, produces plenty of leaves perfect for sauces and dressings, and measures 12 to 18 inches tall and wide larger than other different types of cilantro. And they have a slight lemon flavor and are slightly bitter.
4. Lemon Cilantro
Guess what this cilantro tastes like! This variety of cilantro is known for having a particularly strong citrus flavor that is often less noticeable in other types of cilantro, similar to lemon thyme.
Apparently, the seeds are also incredibly tasty and contain all that compact lemon flavor. This type of cilantro requires a cooler climate and can withstand cold winters.
Due to its preference for cooler conditions will not grow well in southern regions with short winters and intense sun. A perfect replacement if you don’t have room for a lemon tree!
5. Caribe Cilantro
They are dark green leaves with slightly thin stems. The name Caribe is short for the Caribbean, and, as you can probably guess, it refers to a variety of cilantro that has adapted to grow in the Caribbean region.
In fact, cilantro was first introduced to North America by Europeans who came to these regions and brought their foreign herbs and spices with them.
At first, the Caribbean region was too hot, but the cilantro plants adapted, and now we have caribe cilantro, which is perfect for warmer climates.
They are an upgraded version of leisure cilantro. It can keep cilantro in the garden for a long time, withstand the summer heat and resist bolting.
If you live in the southern United States and are planning to plant cilantro outdoors, you will definitely want to look for caribe coriander seeds.
They have a distinct flavor and are quite sweet. You will be happy to have this cilantro as a secret ingredient for beans, salads, and soups. Use them to make sauces for fried foods or as a spread on sandwiches on vegetarian days.
6. Marino Cilantro
This type of cilantro is different only in its taste. Marino leaves have a slightly spicier flavor, with a hint of pepper instead of the fresh, citrus flavor of most cilantro leaves.
This variety also grows quite well and is slow to bolt, like the average leisure cilantro variety. It does not have characteristic features with leaves, and there is no particular need for cultivation.
7. Santo Cilantro
This cilantro has many names, but it actually refers to the same variety of cilantro. You may hear Low Standing Cilantro, California Santo, California Long Standing, or a combination of these.
Of the different types of cilantro, Santo cilantro is one of the strongest varieties because it has been bred to be bolt resistant.
This means it takes longer to flower, and therefore the leaves stay ready for harvest longer. California grows the most cilantro in the United States, which is why you hear California cilantro.
Although there is no specific type of cilantro that grows in California, as Santo is best suited to this climate, it is the most commonly grown cilantro there.
Its leaves are as broad as celery leaves. They have a strong smell that quickly disappears when cooked. It is said that growing Santo for its leaves but harnessing its seeds and flowers also provides many significant benefits.
Do not worry. Try using flowers for decoration or mixing them in with your healthy meal prep ideas for salads.
8. Jantar Cilantro
This strain is also highly resistant to bolting, making it an excellent choice for any herb garden. They say Santo and Jantar are to be the two slowest to bolt compared to the other different types of cilantro.
These two are often used to grow and sell in shops or markets as their leaves will stay fresh and flavorful for longer.
If you’re a big cilantro fan, these varieties might be a better choice, so you have a longer supply of fresh cilantro. Also, if you reside further north, where the summer days are longer, you may want these slower varieties so they can handle the increased sunlight.
9. Delfino Cilantro
Cilantro Delfino is the only type of cilantro that looks very different from all other types of cilantro. It looks more like dill or carrot leaves than parsley-like like most cilantro looks. This means the leaves are more fern-like with thinner tips.
Delfino Cilantro also has a much milder flavor than regular cilantro, which makes it more palatable to people who don’t like the strong flavor of cilantro.
Cool fall and winter weather is perfect for growing Delfino Cilantro, a staple for summer salsa dishes. Because it yields so much more than other varieties, feel free to use cilantro to make homemade salsa instead of store-bought salsa.
Plus, it goes well with those menus that call for chopped cilantro. You can take your ideas for cooking soups, vegetables, sauces, and fish to the next level!
As with other types of cilantro, the leaves and seeds are edible. For Delfino, the seeds are also a little less strong.
10. Moroccan Cilantro
Moroccan cilantro has a slightly different flavor profile; it is outstandingly hot, spicy, and less acidic than other types. But in general, the growing process and gardening needs are the same as for the other different types of cilantro.
This variety has less flavorful leaves, and they are said to have a milder cilantro flavor and a little more citrus flavor.
However, where the leaves lack flavor, the seeds make up for it. The seeds are said to have a much stronger flavor than any other type of cilantro. They add a slightly sweet citrus flavor to soups, cakes, curries, and chutneys.
They have short stems and small leaves (0.04-0.12 inches) and are usually dark green. This type of cilantro is quick to bolt and will bolt when provoked by the hot weather.
Since this strain produces seeds faster and with much more flavor, this would be a great strain if you really like and prefer coriander seeds over fresh cilantro leaves. They are sweeter than Indian coriander.
Yes, culantro not cilantro. This plant is actually Eryngium Foetidum, not the same plant as Coriandrum Sativum. It also looks very different.
This type of cilantro is a saw-shaped leaved plant because the edges of cilantro leaves are often toothed or serrated, lanceolate, and long like a rosette. The long leaves of this plant look more like dandelion leaves than cilantro leaves.
This plant is a kind of variant of the cilantro plant that grows in Mexico and Central America. Other names for culantro are fitweed, saw-leaved herb, spiritweed, black benny, or spiny coriander.
While the people of Puerto Rico call this popular plant Recao, some parts of the Caribe call it Chandon Beni or Mexican coriander.
Culantro has a sweet citrus and floral aroma and is an ideal combination with black pepper, cumin, and thyme. These plants are much more heat resistant than cilantro, which is why it grows in these regions.
Culantro tastes the same as cilantro leaves but much stronger. It is recommended to add these leaves while cooking so that the flavor is evenly distributed and slightly mellow.
And it is also an excellent element of Costa Rican cooking. Being a different plant, Culantro does not produce seeds like coriander.
12. Vietnamese Cilantro (Phak Phai)
This herb is technically not the same as cilantro but has equally flavorful leaves. Vietnamese cilantro is Persicaria Odorata and is more like a vine than an herb. This plant is native to Southeast Asia and therefore prefers a tropical and humid climate.
This herb has darker leaves with smoother edges and is pointed and oblong in shape with a purple stripe down the middle, so it doesn’t look much like cilantro, but it can mimic the flavor very well.
In fact, there are those who swear by Vietnamese cilantro and say it’s better than the real thing. Note that the leaves will be damaged if frozen and should not be eaten.
Store by placing the stem in water, covering the leaves with a plastic bag, and storing them in the refrigerator for about a week.
In Southeast Asian countries, this plant aids digestion and has an anti-inflammatory effect. The fibers in Rau Ram help purify the body and warm the digestive system. The leaves are effective in the treatment of colds and flu.
Fortunately, this plant bolts quite slowly. So if you prefer the taste of its leaves, you will have plenty of leaves to harvest!
Choosing The Right Type
Now that you’ve seen all the different types of cilantro, you’re most likely now a cilantro expert, aren’t you? Well, it’s okay if you’re still not entirely sure.
Each of these types is slightly different, so there really isn’t a clear distinction between what will work for you and what won’t.
Honestly, it’s because there’s no clear line where cilantro should be. It is partly for this reason that it is growing all over the world! It really can be planted anywhere.
The main thing you need to consider is the weather. Cilantro is generally considered a cool climate plant, despite its association with Mexican and South Asian cuisine.
Not that cilantro wilts from the heat, but it will bolt sooner, and you won’t have as many fresh cilantro leaves. So if you still prefer coriander seeds, no problem!
Think about the climate in which you live. If you live somewhere warmer, you might want to get a more bolt-resistant variety to increase the number of fresh leaves you will have.
Also, if you are already growing cilantro, try one of the varieties with a slightly different flavor, such as Moroccan or lemon cilantro, to add variety to your garden! In fact, why not try all the different types of cilantro?
Cilantro really isn’t a picky plant, and once it starts to grow, it will give you a nice fresh cilantro bush. So why not try different strains and see which suits you best?