12 Jul2013

Sawtooth Coriander

by Marketman

Now is about that time of year when cilantro, coriander or wansoy starts to disappear from markets. In an infuriatingly seasonal vanishing act, the heavy rains and temperatures seem to wipe out locally grown cilantro like a plague. God forbid you should have a Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, North African or Mexican restaurant, and you need the distinctive taste of this extremely popular herb that is truly global in reach. This pungent green is an essential flavoring for so many dishes on so many different continents. Of course, I have frequently wondered out loud why folks don’t grow cilantro in greenhouses during the rainy season and reap the benefits of 3-4x its regular pricing…but I am not a farmer. So enter sawtooth coriander or otherwise known as culantro or pak chii farang — here’s an old post from 2008 if you are curious.

Gejo of Malipayon farms still has it on his line up of available herbs today. And this very healthy looking plant that I bought roughly a year ago has miraculously remained alive in our small backyard herb patch, and it has sent off many new shoots/plants. You can substitute this herb for cilantro in most dishes, but it is particularly nice in spicy and herbaceous Asian soups like a tom yum or similar type of dish.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Monique says:

    Amazing! I love coriander and I have never been successful at making it grow unlike Basil or Dill etc. I need to look for this!

    Jul 12, 2013 | 6:10 pm

     
  2. ros says:

    Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Peru episode featured a drink/cocktail made with jungle lime, possibly white rum and culantro.

    The restaurant’s name is amaZ Restaurante. Couldn’t find the exact drink but sifting through their FB photos I’ve came across other dishes/drinks using culantro.

    On springrolls:
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/s720x720/580556_229897777155802_1166713940_n.jpg

    and another drink:
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/s720x720/24451_185830711562509_1146125250_n.jpg

    Jul 12, 2013 | 6:48 pm

     
  3. udo says:

    gosh – a coctail with culantro ?! gotta search for this episode and hope he tells the recipe. gotta try that out !!

    Jul 12, 2013 | 7:14 pm

     
  4. kenikenken says:

    Oh no! This is a bad time for them to disappear. Not when avocados are in over abundance! I haven’t had the chance to make guacamole yet. :(

    Jul 13, 2013 | 12:29 am

     
  5. EbbaBlue says:

    I’ve grown regular and vietnamese cilantro with much success. I am savings some seeds to bring them to Pinas when I visit this November. Same with basil and mint. Hope my relatives in Quezon Province have the same success as I have sa pagpatubo nito.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 1:27 am

     
  6. Natie says:

    Another proof that “one learns something new” everyday..old dog etc etc…

    Jul 13, 2013 | 1:45 am

     
  7. millet says:

    i have one in a pot that does not seem to grow at all. are they really very slow growers?

    Jul 13, 2013 | 9:52 am

     
  8. Marketman says:

    millet, ours are quite prolific and grow rather quickly…

    Jul 13, 2013 | 10:02 am

     
  9. JB says:

    Culantro!! We got ours from Gejo as well. Very hardy plant indeed. :)

    Jul 13, 2013 | 4:49 pm

     
  10. Marketman says:

    JB, btw, I love your food blog… just found my way to it today… well done. :)

    Jul 13, 2013 | 5:11 pm

     
  11. robin castagna says:

    Somehow I’ve always taken wansoy as a close relative of kinchay. I so love kinchay! Lots of it in Bihon Guisado but wansoy? No thanks. Just can’t stand the smell!

    Jul 13, 2013 | 7:43 pm

     
  12. Marketman says:

    robin, you must be one of “17% of east asians” that hate wansoy or coriander. Not to worry, apparently it is GENETIC. You think it tastes like soap, while 83% think it’s FABULOUS. Isn’t that fascinating?!? :) See here. Kinchay is chinese celery and while coriander is referred to as chinese parsley…

    Jul 13, 2013 | 8:25 pm

     
  13. robin castagna says:

    Wow! I guess it is genetic: nobody in the family likes wansoy. I’m not even sure if I’ve tasted it. To me wansoy smells like that tiny green insect that emits an odor when you squash it. It just puts me off! At least there are others like me and my family. Thanks, MM!

    Jul 13, 2013 | 11:12 pm

     
  14. Footloose says:

    I gave away my copy so I can’t confirm but a NYT article quoted The authoritative Oxford Companion to Food notes saying that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes.”

    Btw, the smell of cumin is another one that brings to mind indelicate associations to a lot of people I know.

    Jul 14, 2013 | 8:06 am

     
  15. JB says:

    Wow! Thank you so much MM! You’re truly an inspiration to me and my wife so that really means a lot to us coming from you. :)

    Jul 14, 2013 | 8:29 am

     
  16. millet says:

    MM, is it planted under full sun or partially shaded?

    Jul 14, 2013 | 8:39 am

     
  17. Marketman says:

    millet, ours is in partial shade. But see here for more growing assistance. I didn’t realize that when the plant has sent out flowers like the ones in the photos up top, it has gone to seed and the main plant is about to die off. Apparently, to prolong life, you need to cut the flowering stem… fascinating.

    Footloose, I have Mr. Davidson’s tome beside my desk so let me quote the portion you refer to “The very name coriander is said to be derived from the Greek word koris, meaning bed-bug. The foliage of the plant, and its seeds in the unripe stage, have an odour which has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes.” But at least the next sentence says… “However, this smell disappears from the seeds when they ripen and is replaced by a pleasant, spicy aroma.” But oops, not out of the woods yet, he then writes… “The leaves, on the other hand, retain it. Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to the smell.” Quotes are from The Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson.

    I have to admit I was NOT at all a fan of coriander many years ago. And thought I may be genetically pre-disposed to dislike it. But today I seek it out, and love it in anything from spicy soups, to guacamole or even tagines. So perhaps it’s best to say that one might have an aversion to it at first, but some or many can overcome this aversion with a little effort and time… :)

    JB, anyone who has issues with their anger management therapist showing up late definitely falls into “my camp” of doing things. :)

    Jul 14, 2013 | 9:24 am

     
  18. PITS, MANILA says:

    i have always loved wan-sui. with patis as condiment for coconut cream-based food; with tomato and onion; for bami-heng; tom-yang; fried rice whatever … it goes on and on. the 1st time i had to buy in MNL, the price was P80.00 for 100 grams and i had to pay because i was desperate — needed it for that day! the ones in the photos above, i have yet to experience. btw, my mom hated wan-sui … says it tasted like bugs — hahaha!

    Jul 14, 2013 | 10:05 am

     
  19. Clarissa says:

    I love cilantro! And coriander (like the seed) :) I tried growing this once, it died on me. I tried growing the other variety as well, and again, it died on me. I think I overwater and drown my plants, which also killed my rosemary. At least rosemary when dried is a good substitute if I don’t have any fresh ones. But coriander, I have found out, has no substitute!

    Jul 15, 2013 | 11:15 am

     
  20. Gej says:

    Those who do not like the pungent “surot” (bed bug) -like smell of cilantro might like it that kulantro does not exude as strong an odor/aroma. Kulantro also keeps very well in the chiller – easily 10 days or more, compared to cilantro, which starts to yellow after around 3 days.

    The rainy season is definitely a challenge for growing cilantro (though coming up with funds to build greenhouses is a much greater challenge!) , as well as rosemary, thyme, and sage. They die after continuous exposure to moisture. But the kulantro is one of those year-round herbs that do not mind rain nor shade. For the rainy season sensitive herbs, it would be helpful to grow them by the side of the house, sheltered partly by the roof, or even better, growing them in pots that one can move around.

    Going back to the more well-known cilantro, some people might not be aware that the fleshy base is the part of the plant that Thai cooks look out for the most because of the falvor. Lasts long in the chiller too.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 3:02 pm

     
  21. Footloose says:

    @Gej, I take you as authority on anything herbs which makes all the info on culantro available in the www as false. All of the ones I came across claim that culantro is even more bedbuggy pungent than cilantro.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 10:23 pm

     
  22. Gej says:

    Footloose, it was actually a customer complaint, that our culantro didn’t smell as strongly as cilantro (though he liked the flavor). One person’s complaint is another’s benefit.

    But I continue to be a student, with still a lot to learn. It may be possible that the plant’s pungency may be heightened by certain climatic conditions, and, where I grow them, the conditions cause the smell to be more subdued.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 10:39 pm

     
  23. Footloose says:

    So it is terroir dependent then. Thank you for the quick clarification.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 11:03 pm

     
  24. Gej says:

    To be honest, I’m not sure, Footloose. Terroir is one factor. It may be the “stress” it experienced (excessive heat/sun or cold/shade, excessive water, or the lack of) during growth. Heavily feeding herbs with chemical fertilizers also lessens their flavor. The organic method of growing is very much compatible with herbs in terms of maximizing flavor, but I’m not sure if it has same, or an inverse effect on smell.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 11:09 pm

     
  25. Mandy says:

    I was wondering, since cilantro is sold with the roots still intact– can they be replanted & survive? I got worried reading that cilantro will be hard to find now because of the rainy season. Heehee.

    I also did not like cilantro at first, I thought it smelled like ipis. But having it Mexican or thai food, I learned to not just like it, I LOVE it! :)

    Jul 17, 2013 | 1:05 am

     
  26. mina says:

    Unfortunately, my boyfriend hates cilantro! It’s absolutely unbearable for him. Those of you who learned to love it— Do you have any tips on how he can do the same?

    Jul 17, 2013 | 11:18 am

     
  27. Angelo says:

    Can you get culantro seedlings at the seedling bank?

    Jul 18, 2013 | 1:15 am

     
  28. Pichi says:

    I stood in front of the grocery vegs for like 10 mins. trying to remember if cilantro is wansoy or kinchay. I ended up getting the one sold as “coriander” but it was twice as expensive and half the amount of the wansoy. Huhuhu.

    Jul 22, 2014 | 5:53 pm

     
  29. Beth says:

    Fantastic, I just bought two of these for 35 each at the QC circle nurseries, but mind, only one stall was selling it and only a handful being sold. You may check out the photos under Philippine Urban Gardener FB page. Thanks for the info!

    Nov 16, 2014 | 5:02 pm

     
 

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