Pronounced [sih-LAHN-troh] this member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander. It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant.

Cilantro has a very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. The Cilantro leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.

Article by: Barbara Bowman

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History and Lore

Coriander grows wild in South East Europe and had been cultivated in Egypt, India and China for thousands of years. It is mentioned in Sanskrit text and the Bible Spanish conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and Peru where it now commonly paired with chilies in the local cuisine. It has since become very popular in the Southwest and Western part of the United States as well as in most metropolitan areas. An interesting note is that people of European descent frequently are reviled by the smell of cilantro. It has not gained in popularity in Europe as it has in many other parts of the world.

Coriander is believed to be named after "koris", the Greek word for "bedbug" as it was said they both emitted a similar odor. The Chinese used the herb in love potions believing it provided immortality. Coriander is one of the herbs thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. The book of The Arabian nights tells a tale of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and but was cured by a concoction that included coriander. That book is over 1000 years old so the history of coriander as an aphrodisiac dates back far into history. Cilantro was also know to be used as an "appetite" stimulant.

Buy and Store

Cilantro can normally be found fresh in your local grocery store and is available year-round. Before you store cilantro it should be rinsed and left moist (not wet) and place in a plastic bag. The cilantro may be stored for up to 1 week.

Featured Recipes

Cilantro Slaw
from Sunset Low Fat Mexican Cookbook

5-6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves, minced
1/4 cup lime juice
1 Tablespoon each water and honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large nonmetal bowl, mix all ingredients together.

Bob's Fabulous Yummy Marinade

from More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden by Shepherd & Raboff

This marinade can be used to marinate tofu and meats, as a sauce for noodles or rice, and as a dressing for a green salad.

5 T vegetable oil
1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro with stems
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1 ounce fresh ginger (about an inch of it?), cut into six 1/4 inch slices
6 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1 small jalapeno or other chili (optional)

Combine and blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until the chili, garlic, ginger and cilantro are finely chopped.

Medicinal Uses

Coriander is considered an aid to the digestive system. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices. A poultice of Coriander seed can be applied externally to relieve painful joints and rheumatism. Once source (Herbs & Herb Gardening by Jessica Houdret) said the seeds can be mixed with violets for a remedy for a hangover.

The essential oils of the cilantro leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. Coriander seeds is considered to have cholesterol lowering properties.

Culinary Uses

In the Middle East the Cilantro leaves are used in pickles, curries, and chutneys. In Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. it is used in everything from salsas and salads to burritos or meat dishes. The coriander seeds are used in sweets, breads, cakes and to flavor liqueurs.

Grow Your Own

Cilantro, is a fast growing annual reaching 12 - 24 inches tall. The entire plant including the leaves, the seeds and roots are all edible. Coriander can easily be grown in pots. Simply pick or trim fresh leaves of whole stalks as required. The leaves get a stronger and sometimes disagreeable flavor as they get older and larger. If you want to harvest seed for your next crop; do so after the leaves and flowers turn brown.


How to Grow
Look for seed varieties are slower growing and thus take longer to bolt. (Bolting is when the plant prematurely produces flower stalks and begins to produce flowers and seed). Flower stalks are thickened stems that eventually produce flowers and seeds. Grow in full sun. The soil should be kept moist but well drained. But all things considering the plant is not fussy about soil conditions. Plant seeds in mid to late Spring. Plant in 2 -3 week intervals for harvest all season long.

Buy Seeds
Renees Garden Seeds
Park Seeds

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I wish the local restaurants near me served as much of this as I want. I ask for it in my omeletes and sometimes, I swear, the waitresses look at me like I'm nuts. It's cilantro. I'm not asking for lavender! :)

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I love cilantro on tacos and anything Mex!

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Cilantro Nutrition

Cilantro, 1/4 cup leaves
Total fat (g)0.021
Saturated fat (g)0
Monounsaturated fat (g)0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)0
Dietary fiber (g)0.112
Protein (g)0.085
Carbohydrate (g)0.147
Cholesterol (mg)0
Sodium (mg)1.840
Vitamin C (mg)1.080