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Cilantro is harvested from the coriander plant. The plant is cultivated for either coriander or cilantro - but not both - because the leaves must be picked for cilantro before the plant matures to produce seeds. An herbaceous annual, cilantro is a member of the Umbelliferae family, long with parsley, dill and cumin. The botanical name Coriandrum sativum comes from the Greek koris, a reference to a type of bedbug that smells a bit like the foliage of the coriander plant. (This distinctive smell is a sign of good cilantro!) The green seed also gives off this odor, but develops a soft, spicy scent--like a combination of orange, anise and cumin - when thoroughly aged and dried. Indigenous to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region, cilantro is easy to grow and is cultivated in many countries around the world, including the U.S. and Mexico.
The fragrant pungent leaf of the coriander plant, cilantro is popular is Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Cilantro is also sometimes called fresh coriander, Italian parsley (which has similar flat leaves) or Chinese parsley.