This versatile and flavorful herb has bright culinary powers.

Credit: Alison Miksch

The way chefs garnish nearly every plate with parsley, you'd think it was the most consumed herb in the world. Wrong. That distinction goes to multipurpose cilantro. Its leaves are key to turning tomatoes, peppers, and onions into salsa, and avocados into guacamole. Cooks in Thailand use the roots, and in India, cilantro seeds—known as coriander—are popular in a variety of dishes. The herb's fresh aroma is created by the same chemical compound that gives an orange peel its waxy note, making the duo great culinary friends. And its bright taste comes from an extremely reactive chemical compound that breaks down when heated. Try to use cilantro when it's as raw and fresh as possible.

Needs partial sun in the hottest climates and full sun elsewhere.

Grows best in good, regularly watered, well-drained soil.

Leaves are best raw. Grind seeds, called coriander, into a spice.

Know Before You Plant
Cilantro doesn't transplant well, so start it from seed—you can even use coriander seed from the spice aisle. Cilantro likes good, well-drained soil. In the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South, sow in fall, but in the Upper and Middle South, start in early spring. Or simply grow it in pots.

Keep It Growing
Plant progressively to harvest leaves over time, and cut off pinkish white flower heads as soon as they appear. If you just want the seeds, you need only two or three plants. When seedheads begin to turn gray-brown, pull up the plants, place them headfirst into bags, and shake to loosen the seeds.