This herb confused me for the longest time. It was always written as “cilantro/coriander” and when I asked for cilantro at the store, I was handed a spice jar of coriander seeds and told that it was the same thing. The truth of the matter is that cilantro is the stem and leaves of the coriander plant. (Actually, cilantro leaves resemble Italian flat-leaf parsley.) When the plant produces seeds, these are “coriander seeds” which can be left whole or ground into a powder and are often used in sweets, breads and cakes and to flavor liqueurs. The coriander plant is probably one of the first herbs to be used by mankind, perhaps going as far back as 5000 BC.
Cilantro was made popular when salsas come into vogue in the 80’s. Personally, I have grown fond of cilantro even though I do not eat a lot of salsas. I find cilantro to have a fresh taste with a hint of citrus, although many people may define its taste as slightly peppery. Either way, don’t be afraid to try this delightful and flavorful herb!
You can combine cilantro with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for flavored cooking oil. This would be a good additive to use in your food if you have a heat condition in a meridian, as cilantro is a “cooling” herb.
Cilantro is native to the Mediterranean yet it has found its way into recipes all over the world. In Mexico and the Southwest, cilantro is vital and used in everything from salsas, soups, and salads to burritos or meat dishes. Try mixing chopped cilantro into sour cream and use it as a topping for chili, tacos, or enchiladas.
Cilantro is also traditionally used in Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Asian cooking as well. For an Asian flavor, sprinkle cilantro leaves over stir-fried vegetables. In the Middle East, cilantro leaves are used in pickles, curries and chutneys. Try using fresh cilantro leaves in salads, omelettes and soups. It is also good with cooked beans, rice, fish and poultry.
Cilantro loses its flavor when dried. However, bunches of cilantro are now available to us in the produce section of supermarkets all year. Choose your cilantro the same way you choose your parsley: young fresh looking leaves. Avoid any bunch that has begun to wilt or shows any discoloration. To store a fresh bunch of cilantro (with the stems), place the bunch in a jar with water like you would a bunch of flowers. Cover the bunch with a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator. Change the water every two days or so eliminating any wilted leaves in the process. Rinse the leaves before use.
Steeped as a tea, cilantro has soothing properties for the stomach. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices. The essential oils of the cilantro leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. In the U.S. coriander has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering properties. Coriander is a good source of dietary fiber and a good source of iron, magnesium and manganese.