Wednesday | March 29, 2017
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The difference between cilantro, coriander

I’ve been growing cilantro herb for a number of years, but I can’t seem to keep it around. After a short time, it goes to flower and eventually dies. I can keep tomatoes, kale, eggplant and other vegetables around for a couple of years, what’s with cilantro?

With cilantro the problem is known as bolting. Bolting is the premature flower formation initiated by hormones within the plant system in response to high temperatures, as well as drought and starvation.

This unwelcome occurrence in leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, lettuce and cilantro, takes the plant out of its leaf-producing mode and switches over to flower and seed production.

Cilantro is a cool-season plant. It flourishes during cool nights and moderate, sunny days as in the spring and fall. But it will bolt at the first sign of hot weather.

The Volcano and other similar areas would perhaps give cilantro the longest season, provided there is adequate sunshine. Cilantro, however, is a true annual and even under the best conditions, it will send up flowers and eventually die within the year.

In order to minimize the bolting effect, cilantro should not be grown during the warmer, summer months. The best time for planting would be after the summer heat from September or October until perhaps March.

There are some slow-bolting varieties, Calypso is one, that can extend cilantro’s productivity perhaps a month. Snipping off the first newly emerging flower buds may also extend the leafy period, but only slightly.

Most cooks are familiar with the seasoning coriander. Coriander is actually the small, dried fruit, often referred to as the seeds of the cilantro plant. In fact, the scientific name for cilantro is coriandrum sativum, or coriander, also known as Chinese parsley. All parts of the plant are edible. The fresh leaves and the small, dried fruit are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.

The fresh leaves are often used in South Asian and Chinese cooking as well as in Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole. Since heat will diminish the flavor, leaves are frequently used raw or added just before serving. The leaves lose their aroma when dried or frozen.

Coriander seed is a main ingredient in garam masala, an Indian spice, and in curries. Although the ingredients in garam masala can vary, it commonly includes coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.

In India, roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack.

Coriander is used for pickling vegetables and for making sausages in Germany and South Africa. In Russia and Central Europe, the seeds are used as an alternative to caraway seeds. Even in brewing certain types of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers, coriander is an added flavor.

Like many plants, coriander may contain properties useful in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Research is presently investigating these claims and other medicinal attributes of coriander.

Nick, could you discuss what plants would be harmful to our dogs. Are there some plants that I should definitely avoid putting in the yard? Thanks for your help. I love my pets.

I don’t know how many times dogs are rushed to the vet because they ingested a poisonous plant, but it is certainly worthwhile to know the worst offenders and keep them out of the yard!

There are many common garden plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and other animals. Some are more potent than others, and it will depend on how much is ingested.

Symptoms can range from irritation of the mouth to lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and even death.

Here is a list of some of the more common toxic plants: Azaleas and rhododendrons, cycads, cyclamen, daylily, foxglove, heavenly bamboo, lily, and Yews. For a more comprehensive list and more information, go to the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at


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