This saw-toothed, low-growing, pungent, green herb is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America. We first learned about it from Puerto Rican and Dominican friends who call it Recao and for whom it is an essential part of their family Sofrito recipes. In Trinidad, it is known as Chado Beni, and it is also used extensively in Southeast Asia. For many years, because of the difficulty germinating this plant, we have bought seedlings from Vietnamese grocery stores where it is called Ngò Gai. In English, it is called Culantro (which sounds like the milder and similarly flavored Cilantro, but is different as you can see here). We have been experimenting for several years with seed production of this plant, which would really prefer to be growing in a more tropical climate. The last couple years we've grown it successfully in the shade of our Moringa trees and Upland Rice polycultures.
Our recao informant and former Truelove Seeds apprentice Grimaldi Baez, who is admittedly NOT a mixologist, tinctures the leaves and makes a gin and tonic with them as if they were bitters.
Days to maturity: 80-90
Seeds per pack: 100
Germination rate: 91% on 02/28/2022
Planting / harvesting notes
Prefers nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and partial shade. This is a difficult seed to germinate and it is difficult to keep it from bolting early (sending up flower spikes). We start our seeds indoors patted down on the surface of our potting soil 2-4 weeks before the last frost - we do not cover the seeds. We keep ours moist (but not too wet) and warm, allowing up to 25 days for germination. You can try direct sowing when the soil of your garden warms up in spring and summer and keep moist to delay bolting. If transplanting seedlings, try not to disturb their roots. We grow ours successfully underneath and in the shadow of larger, bushy plants. Cut the rosette at the base before flowering, or harvest individual leaves.
Seed keeping notes
When the plant bolts, it will send up green flower clusters from its central stem. Seeds will turn brown/black when mature. You can grab all the seeds at once and crumble them into a harvest container.