One of the problems growing herbs in Texas is that our hot summers kill off some of the best annual herbs. This is, alas, true of the ever-popular cilantro that we use so many in Tex-Mex foods. Once daytime highs get about 90 degrees it goes to seed and dies. Well, I am happy to report there is another spicy herb with a very similar flavor that you can grow after cilantro has died – its tropical cousin culantro.
Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is a biennial herb that likes a spot with some protection from the afternoon sun and lots of water. This is a native of the tropical regions of the Americas and will be right at home in your Gulf Coast garden. The four inch long strap leaves are somewhat prickly due to the small yellow spines on the edges, but these are softer than they look and won’t be a problem in foods. A central flower stalk appears the second year, growing nearly two feet tall. The flowers are creamy white and somewhat spiky in appearance one source describes it as a miniature pineapple, but will dry nicely for everlasting arrangements.
When growing culantro watch out for slugs and snails. They seem to enjoy nibbling on the leaves so bait as needed. Mealy bugs can also become a problem around the base of the tightly packed leaves. Spray insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
In the kitchen, use finely chopped culantro as you would cilantro. Most people find it more pungent than cilantro so use a little less to begin with until you are familiar with the flavor.
P.S. This herb has an added bonus in that, unlike cilantro, the dried herb retains much of its flavor.