Herb Profiles: Cilantro/Chinese Parsley/Coriander

Fresh Cilantro Leaves

Fresh Cilantro Leaves

Cilantro/Coriander

INTRODUCTION: Cilantro and Chinese parsley refers to the leaves of this herb.  The leaves are finely divided and very similar to parsley.  The cilantro leaves have a strong fragrance that is described as both sweet and pungent.  The seeds of the plant are always referred to as coriander.  Coriander seeds become more fragrant as they age.  Coriander/cilantro is one of the most widely used herbs.  You can find references to cilantro in almost all cultures. Many recipes use the names interchangeably.  Fresh coriander is cilantro and dried cilantro is usually the ground or whole coriander seeds.

HISTORICAL FACTS: Coriander/cilantro has been around since biblical times.  In the Bible, Exodus, XVI, 31 mentions coriander.  You can find medical and culinary uses cilantro for  in texts from India, Egypt. Ancient Rome and China dating back seven thousand years.  The ancient Egyptians believed coriander could be used in the afterlife as a food for the departed.

HORTICULTURAL FACTS: Cilantro is a hardy annual. Cilantro is a relative of the parsley family.   Unlike parsley it is an annual.  The plant originated in southern Europe, North Africa and the western portion of the Asian continent. The leaves are scalloped, shiny, broad and flat. It grows from a central stalk attached to a taproot to a height of 12-18 inches with flowering stems branching out.

GROWING GUIDELINES: Depending on the goal of growing cilantro/coriander you should plant in full sun if you desire seeds for coriander or in partial shade if you want cilantro for culinary or medicinal needs. Cilantro is very easy to grow from seed. Sow seeds in ½ inch furrows after the danger of frost has past. Sow seeds every two weeks to assure a continuous crop of fresh leaves.  If you clip leaves from the plant it will eventually become tough.  Don’t fertilize heavily as this causes sprawling.

FLOWERING TIME: usually in late summer.  Flowers are umbels of tiny white flowers.

Cilantro/Coriander Culinary Facts

CULINARY FACTS: Cilantro leaves are used to flavor dishes from the Middle East, Latin America and Southeastern Asia. Chop just prior to use for maximum flavor. In China Cilantro/Chinese parsley is finely chopped and added to fish and meat dishes Thai cooks add it to a multitude of dishes. Use it to enhance salads, beans, rice, omelets, soups, lamb, cilantro based pesto and almost any dish you can imagine.

Coriander seeds have a warm taste with hints of lemon, orange and sage with a slightly bitter quality.  It is best paired with beans, pork, corn, breads and duck. You will find it many times combined with garlic, curry and chili.  They are used to flavor beans, stews, sausage and pastries.

HARVESTING TIPS: Cilantro is best harvested prior to seeds forming.  Can be dried, however the dry herb is less fragrant. The leaves and stems are very aromatic. Freezing leaves is not recommended.  Cut stems and place to into cool water and cover with a plastic bag. Should keep in a refrigerator for up to 7days.

Coriander seeds should be harvested in summer months as they ripen.  If you leave the seeds on the plant the weight of the seeds will bend the seedpods to the ground where they become overripe and release from the plant.  Once off the plant they are of very poor quality.

FLAVOR: Sweet and Pungent

HOME GARDEN: Indoors/outdoors

Cilantro/Coriander Medicinal Facts

MEDICINAL FACTS: Internally cilantro is used for digestive problems. Externally it is used for joint problems, as a laxative and hemorrhoids. Coriander/cilantro has antioxidant properties and can delay or prevent food spoilage.  It has diuretic properties and has been used to control mild diabetes because of its insulin-like activity. We recommend that you consult with your health-care professional prior to using any herb for medicinal purposes.
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