by Barbara Porsch
Today, we will look at Cilantro. I love cilantro. Have I not said the same thing about other herbs? For many, the taste of cilantro is an acquired taste. You either adore it or abhor it!
The fresh green leaves are called cilantro or chinese parsley. The seeds are called coriander. Go figure! So if you find a recipe that calls for fresh coriander or Chinese parsley, you know it is actually wanting cilantro. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is one of the oldest seasonings known to man. In the Old Testament, coriander seed was compared to manna. It appeared in colonists gardens in America in the 17th century, with lots of other history in between.
It is to the Mexicans what parsley is to those north of the border, but they don’t leave it on the plate. They eat it…… in soups, rice, guacamole, tacos and especially to spike the chile salsas found on every table. I like to use it in marinades for fish or chicken and in a cilantro-mint pesto that you can put on everything except ice cream. Sow seeds from September to February for crops in the spring. It really likes the cool weather. They will then reseed. Like parsley, they have a taproot, so they are difficult to transplant. However, they are easy to grow in slightly rich, well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine. Its strong aroma is said to discourage insect damage to other plants in the garden, but I can’t promise that. I have to make a concentrated effort to plant often enough to have it growing in the garden all through the summer when the companion foods (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) are also ready, but fortunately it has become readily available in stores now. (Some of you may not remember but there was a time when a lot of fresh herbs and veggies were not available at the grocers.) Dried is not an acceptable substitute. It just doesn’t have the flavor. The leaves resemble flat leafed Italian parsley, and the plant is best at about 6 inches of height. Then it gets taller and has beautiful white lacy blossoms. The unripe seed (coriander seed) with a strong citrus taste gives a burst of freshness to salads and grilled fish. The dried seed is an essential ingredient in curry and pickling spice and good in pastries, cobblers and breads. Cilantro is also an essential ingredient in Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisines.
Cilantro is essential to my queso and lately I have enjoyed chopping a small handful into slaw mix for a fresh new taste. Try it. You might like it.