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The Case for Cilantro

Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) says she despises it.  Others say the taste reminds them of dirty dishwater.  Some claim a soapy taste when they chew on it.  How could it be, then, that guacamole wouldn’t make it to a true “TexMex” table without a hefty amount of cilantro mixed in?  And salsa without cilantro?  Not in TEXAS! While there are clearly two sides, the “lovers” and the “haters”, consider these facts before arriving at your own verdict.

 History

Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, a member of the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family has been cultivated as a medicinal and culinary herb for more than three thousand years.  Mentioned first in Egyptian papyri and the Bible, Spanish conquistadors introduced cilantro to Mexico and South America where it quickly became associated with that cuisine.  Also known as Chinese parsley, the herb has a long history in Chinese medicine and cuisine.  One of the ancient uses was as an aphrodisiac.

Cilantro Growing in Raised Bed, Demonstration Garden Joe Field Rd, Dallas

Growing It

Cilantro likes loose, rich, well-draining soil.  Sow seeds in the fall ½” deep, thin seedlings to 1 foot apart.  Plant seeds again in February to give your cilantro time to grow before it gets too hot. If you can find it,  choose variety “Long Standing” for its excellent flavor, improved leafiness and, as the name infers, its slow-to-bolt quality. 

Cilantro  needs full sun and occasional watering if the weather is dry.  Transplants can be put in the ground anytime throughout the fall and winter.  A succession of crops will help your cilantro last longer.  To harvest cilantro, cut the stems down to the ground, a small section at a time.  When cilantro gets ready to flower, it sends up leaves that are lacier and smaller.  The seeds of the cilantro plant are known as coriander.   An aromatic spice, try using coriander in sweets, cakes, breads, and to flavor liqueurs.

Cooking With Cilantro

Every part of the plant is edible.  Cilantro’s  flat and gently serrated dark green leaves, resembling Italian parsley, are best used when the plant is about 6 inches high, and they must always be used fresh.  Toss them into almost any salad.  You can use cilantro anytime you would use parsley.  Make a pesto out of it just as would basil and freeze it for future use.  Store a bunch of cilantro for about a week in the refrigerator in a jar of water loosely covered with a plastic bag.  (Remember to change the water every few days.) 

Enjoy It 

The flowers make an attractive bouquet or addition to other garden flowers for cut arrangements.   Use it to settle the stomach and encourage good digestion.  Or do as the Chinese, use it in a “love potion” which they believed led to a long life.   While true, its unique aroma and pungence often demand an acquired taste, once you acquire the taste for it cilantro can be addicting!  Finally, just be thankful that when summer tomatoes and peppers are beginning to ripen  and cilantro may no longer be found in the garden, a quick trip to the grocery always keeps it within reach.   Case solved!

Linda

Note:  Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of our favorite “cilantro” recipes with you.

5 responses »

  1. Dice four Roma tomatoes, one-half a large onion, and two seeded Serrano Peppers. Add one bunch of chopped cilantro, the juice of four key limes and a teaspoon of salt. It is better in about two hours if you can wait that long.

    Reply
  2. I love cilantro – although we generally call it coriander here in New Zealand. Most people don’t use the roots, although it’s possible too, I’m told. Tastes just like the rest of the plant.

    We use an Indian (the subcontinent, that is) recipe to create fritters, just three cups of sifted flour, three quarters of a teaspoon of salt, some baking powder, and water to mix until it’s a thinnish batter, and as much cilantro as you like. We like lots. Fry spoonfuls in oil. They’re best eaten hot, but I’m not proud and will reheat any that survive to be called left overs. Delicious with a range of toppings – including avocado and cheese – I’m partial to haloumi. Cheese that squeaks. What could be better.

    And – for the record – I covet your raised beds.

    Reply
  3. We are trying to imagine shopping in New Zealand-sounds wonderful and so do the fritters!
    Ann

    Reply

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