Growing Culantro in Northeast Florida Gardens

(Eryngium foetidum)

Culantro Herb Plants / Eryngium foetidum For Northeast Florida Origins:

Culantro is a biennial herb with a strong tap root, native to tropical portions of Central and South America. It has naturalized in Puerto Rico where you can find it growing out in the wooded areas. This strong scented herb is a close relative to cilantro, although it looks nothing like cilantro, Culantro has a similar flavor and is used in very much the same way. The taste of Culantro is similar, but stronger or richer than cilantro.

I was first introduced to the plant when a friend, from Puerto Rico, was making her famous rice dish. She pulled out a little tub of green mixture to add to the rice pot, and when she took the lid off you could smell deliciousness in the whole house! When she told me what was in it, I was a bit confused. I knew I could smell cilantro, and I had never heard of Culantro before, but it was the magic ingredient that made your mouth water as soon as she opened the little lid. Her rice tasted every bit as good as it smelled. I was determined to get my hands on some of that Culantro! Well, thanks to Cathy requesting it, my local Publix super market stocks this delicious herb in 4 inch pots you can buy in the produce department. I picked one up and have been in love with it ever since. My rice is still not anywhere near as good as Cathy’s, and I’m sure it never will be, but my salsa tastes better than ever!

Culantro is loved in many places, and goes by many, many names. It can be found growing under the names of Long Coriander or False Coriander in America, Saw leaf herb, Black Benny, Mexican Coriander, Spiritweed, Racao in Spain, Ngo Gai in Vietnam, Pak Chi Farang in Thailand, the list just keeps on going. But like it’s relative Cilantro, no matter what you call it, Culantro makes a great addition to any herb garden! 

Culantro Growing Season for Northeast Florida:

Culantro is an annual or biennial planting and can be planted and grown from seed in early fall and early spring. In summer they can be planted in a semi shaded spot here in the Jacksonville Florida and St. Augustine area landscape.   

Culantro will take more heat than Cilantro but can still have a tendency to bolt when grown in the full sun in the heat of summer. The seeds germinate readily, so if your planning on more Culantro plants allow them to fall onto exposed soil around your Culantro plant and harvest those seedlings’ leaves in the fall and winter season! And you will just about have Culantro year round from your spring planting.

Sun Exposure for Culantro / Eryngium foetidum in Northeast Florida:

Plant Culantro Herb plants in a full sun to partially shaded garden location in Northeast Florida’s Jacksonville and St. Augustine area garden. When grown commercially for leaf production and harvest, Culantro is grown in a more shaded location because the plants will produce larger, darker leaves that appear healthier or more appealing to the buyer. But don’t let that stop you from growing them where you want, they taste just as good either way! 

Culantro makes a great indoor herb garden plant, just locate it near a sunny window.

Soil Preference for Culantro / Eryngium foetidum in Northeast Florida Gardens:

Culantro / Eryngium foetidum is an easy to grow annual or biennial herb. It is not particular about the components of the soil it grows in, but your plants will benefit from amending your planting site generously with compost when installing your new Culantro / Eryngium foetidum plants. 

Water and Fertilizer Requirements of Culantro / Eryngium foetidum Herb Plants:

Newly planted seeds will require watering every day until the set of mature leaves emerges, then taper back to three times a week, then twice a week for in-ground plants and three to four times a week for plants potted in containers.

In General, Herbs need little fertilizer. To much fertilizer can lead to lush green growth with low volitale oils in the plant, less oils equals less flavor and aroma for your herbs. However, when planting into Floridas sandy soils you may find your plants in need of a boost. If so, try fertilizing with a mixture of organic fish emulsions and seaweed at one ounce of each per gallon of water. Put into a sprayer and water every other week or as needed with the mixed solution. If your leaves still look a bit lackluster consider a bit of blood meal fertilizer.

Or, if you find your plant struggling at any point, make up a batch of compost tea and water generously. Repeat as needed weekly or biweekly.

Size of Culantro / Eryngium foetidum When Mature:

Culantro / Eryngium foetidum plants quickly grow to approximately 12 inches high and wide.

Sowing Culantro / Eryngium foetidum Seeds into Northeast Florida Soils:

Culantro / Eryngium foetidum seeds are hard to find. If you can locate them, spread them onto the top of the soil and don’t cover them with soil. They will germinate easily and when the plants are left to flower and seed during summer you can safely expect to see volunteer plants pop up in the surrounding areas. 

Harvesting Your Culantro / Eryngium foetidum in the Northeast Florida Landscape:

Culantro can be harvested easily by clipping the outer leaves just above the soil level. Use fresh or store wrapped lightly in a slightly moist paper tower in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. 

For longer term storage, chop your Culantro or run it into the food processor, add a bit of olive oil and store in the freezer in ice cube trays. I like to add a bit of garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil, then pour it into a plastic freezer bag, lay the bag flat on it’s side to make a thin layer, maybe 1/4 of an inch thick, that can easily be broken into bits when frozen. Remove the bag when needed, break into pieces and throw a bit into your dish!     

Blooms and Seeds of Culantro for Northeast Florida’s Jacksonville and St. Augustine area Landscapes:

Culantro plants quickly bolt with Florida’s hot temperatures. The flowers are held just a few inches above the  foliage and germinate easily. Plants can naturalize in an area readily.