The Q&A Archives: Polygonum odoratum

Question: Where can I learn about Vietnamese Cilantro ..Also named

Answer: One of those mysterious and exotic herbs is Vietnamese Cilantro, also called Vietnamese Coriander and Rau Ram. A pretty little plant in the knotweed family, Polygonum, it is often used in Vietnam interchangeably with peppermint and what we would call normal Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum. And, while we may be most familiar with normal Cilantro in Salsa, it is used in many different ways throughout the world.

There are three fairly well known plants that sport the 'Cilantro' flavor. Besides Cilantro, and Vietnamese Cilantro, there is also Culantro, Eryngium foetidium. And while not identical in flavor to Coriandrum sativum, Vietnamese Cilantro is by far the easiest to grow.

Vietnamese Cilantro, Polygonum odoratum, is also a hot weather perennial that dies at 32 degrees. Grown in a large container through the growing season, it can be brought into a well lit, warm room before the first frost. The genus name Polygonum refers to the many sections of the stems which grow coarsely from joint to joint. It grows rapidly and can outgrow its container quickly. When this happens, the plant stops producing the lettuce like leaves and needs to be transplanted to a larger pot or broken up and repotted. This can happen several times in one season, depending on the size of the original container and the growing conditions. An understory ground cover, Vietnamese Cilantro grows best with afternoon shade or all day filtered shade and plenty of water.

The dark green, maroon- blotched leaves with their burgundy underside are ( also like lettuce) used fresh. Vietnamese Cilantro can be used in place of Cilantro or Mint in most Vietnamese recipes. The leaves have the best flavor when they are young. As they age, they become tough and leathery and a bit acrid. The plant may be cut back to the ground at any time during the growing season to produce more fresh young leaves. If after cutting back, the plant seems to be slow on the rebound, it probably needs to repotted or divided.

Any plant that can provide copious amounts of healthy, flavor filled greens is a good candidate for my herb garden. That it is so easy to grow makes it a real sweetheart.

Hope this information answers all your questions!

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