THE WORLD OF HERBS
J. E. Kinghorn
Coriander a.k.a. Cilantro
It is said that Cilantro is one of the Nation's most popular herbs. The North American populace has learned to appreciate Latin-American/Mexican
cuisine in all it's simple goodness. Therefore, cilantro naturally escalated in popularity since it is an essential seasoning in Latin and Mexican dishes. Additionally, cilantro ranks very high in Chinese cuisine where it is known as Chinese parsley. In Southeast Asia cilantro root is used
along with the leaves to flavor pastes and sauces.
The leaves,(cilantro), are popular in Latin and Mexican cooking while the seeds, (coriander), are more popular in Egyptian and Indian dishes. The Egyptians use coriander to season breads and soups and in India it is used to flavor curry, pastes and sauces. It has been noted as early as 75 AD by Roman botanist `Pliny the Elder', that the best coriander came from Egypt. The Romans steeped dried coriander seeds in vinegar to preserve meat. In Scandinavia and Russia coriander is used in making liqueurs.
I would put this herb in the same category as garlic, you either love it or hate it.
The name is derived from Koros, Greek for bedbug, in reference to the foul smell of leaves. That's a matter of opinion, however, I don't know how many people actually smelled a bedbug but I can say I haven't, so do not qualify to comment on the comparison. I would compare it to the smell left in the air after deep frying food; not pleasant but not foul, perhaps stale. I do know that bugs turn away from it in the garden. Regardless of the smell, it tastes wonderful in salsas, which I can't get enough of.
If you are growing cilantro mainly for the leaves, as I do, sow the seeds in succession, every three weeks, as you would radishes. Plant 8" apart to get lush leaf growth. Cilantro likes cooler weather but plenty of sun. Early Spring planting is best or Fall planting for early Spring sprouting after ground thaw. It likes rich garden soil and you must keep the seedling moist. The herb will bolt quickly in hot summer weather. There is a generic cilantro seed and transplants may be available from your local nursery. It is called `Slobolt'.
Once you see the very attractive lacy white or pink flowers appear it will quickly go to seed. If you haven't harvested the leaves, you had best get at it.
Popular Veracruz Salsa
2 garlic cloves
1/2 lb. Tomatillos, husked and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 serrano or 3 jalapeno chiles, chopped
6 cilantro sprigs, coarsely shopped
1 ripe Hass avocado, halved and pitted.
In food processor or mortar, pound or pulse garlic with 1t salt until you get a paste. Add all other ingredients except the avocado and pound or pulse until smooth. Add avocado and blend until smooth. Season the salsa with more salt if needed. It is similar to guacamole but lighter. Can be served with grilled vegetables and meats as a dip or wrap with corn tortillas.