Cilantro, pronounced “see-LAHN-tro,” has the scientific name Coriandrum sativum. It comes from the coriander plant, which is one of the few plants that produces both an herb and a spice. Cilantro comes from the leaves of the plant while coriander is the fruit, most frequently called the seeds.
Cilantro is a divisive herb, with firm camps that either love it or absolutely loathe it. This is because of the aliphatic aldehydes- some people have sensitive taste buds that pick up on the aldehyde group of chemicals. These are the same chemicals that are present in soap.
Cilantro gets its flavor from essential oils that range from 0.1% to 0.2% of the plant. These essential oils are predominantly made up of the previously mentioned aliphatic aldehydes.
Cilantro is called “kuzbara warak” in Arabic, “yuen sui” in Mandarin, “persil arabe” in French, “Indische Petersilie” in German, “hara dhania” in Hindi, “koendoro” in Japanese, “kinza” in Russian and “cilantro” in Spanish. It is sometimes called “coriander leaf,” “cilantrillo,” “Mexican parsley,” or “Chinese parsley.”
From the Medieval Latin “celiandrum” that comes from an alteration on the Latin word “coriandrum,” we get the modern English word “cilantro.” Cilantro has been used as a culinary herb for centuries, probably as early as 5,000 BCE. It is mentioned in both the Bible and Sanskrit texts. Introduced to Mexico and Peru by Spanish conquistadors, this herb is now a signature part of cuisines in both of these regions. It is similarly a staple in Western and Southwestern parts of the United States where Hispanic populations tend to live in higher concentrations.
Helen Leach, an anthropologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has a specific interest in cilantro which comes from her research in food, eating, cooking, and the associated tools and histories. She was interested to see if cilantro has always been hated or if this was more modern development in the global food conversation. Her research showed a shift in the 17th century away from cilantro, which had been a pretty prominent ingredient in many dishes before then. What changed? Well, more upper class Europeans were looking for new flavors and a more diversified palette, leading to a distaste (literally and figuratively) for the older favored flavors like cilantro.
Cilantro was one of the first plants grown by colonists in America, particularly the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the mid-1600s, alongside dandelions! Julia Child was famously against all thing cilantro, once having said that she would “pick it out if [she] saw it and throw it on the floor” if she found cilantro in anything she was eating. Her direct thoughts on the herb were, “I hate it.”
The cilantro or coriander plant can reach a height of 12” to 36”, and the entire plant is fully edible. This plant produces both the spice coriander and the herb cilantro, but can only be cultivated for one of the two. Once the leaves are plucked, the seeds can’t grow, and the leaves lose their brightness and incredible flavor after they get old enough for the plant to produce seeds, leaving behind a strong, mostly unpleasant leaf that isn’t desirable in food.
Cilantro needs full sun but prefers even temperatures over the course of its growing season. Soils should be moist and well drained. This is a quickly growing plant, with some varieties having leaves that can be harvested in just a few weeks. The plant isn’t fully mature and ready for harvest until about 8 weeks, and then the seeds would come in after about 12 weeks if it was being grown for coriander. This plant is typically planted in May in more temperate regions and is ready to harvest in July. Cilantro does not do well in areas with a lot of wind or rain.
Our Organic Cilantro is from Egypt.
Find cilantro as a key ingredient in Mexican, Caribbean, and various Asian cuisines. It is used as a flavor enhancer in North African cuisines but adds color as well. It is popular in Tex-Mex recipes here in the United States. Mexican cuisine incorporates cilantro into bean dips, salsas, soups, and snacks. It can be mixed with some sour cream and used as a condiment on burritos, chilis, enchiladas, or tacos.
In Thai cooking, cilantro is used frequently! It is just as valued for its herbaceous qualities as makrut lime leaves, Thai basil, and lemongrass is in this cuisine. It is used often in curry pastes here, particularly shrimp pastes and yellow curries. In Vietnam, this is an ingredient you are likely to find on top of banh mi, a classic sandwich from this country. In Malaysia, it is added to spice blends used to make kormas for pairing with breads and rice. In Morocco, it is a popular addition to falafel.
In Egypt, cilantro is frequently found in a bean puree called “bissara.” Indian dishes like chutney usually feature a cilantro and mint puree, and it makes for a beautiful garnish too. It is a part of the Northern Indian seasoning blend Chaat Masala.
Avocado, bell peppers, chicken, corn, couscous, fish, lamb, mayo, pork, rice, shellfish, sour cream, tomatoes, tortillas and yogurt are all foods that taste great with some cilantro! This herb pairs well with spices like chile peppers, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, lemons, limes and onions.
Vegetarian Refried Bean Pizza, Easy Borracho Beans and Smoky Pork Wontons in Sichuan Red Chili Oil are some of our favorite recipes. They use conventional cilantro, but you can swap that out with organic cilantro quite easily.
There are some herbs that taste better once they have been dried, while others have less flavor. Oregano, rosemary, and thyme taste better once dried and basil, cilantro, curry leaves, dill weed, lemongrass, and tarragon tend to lose some flavor during the drying process. These herbs are used fresh most often.
As you probably noticed, cilantro is one of the herbs that loses flavor once dried. Still, most recipes only call for a small amount of cilantro and it doesn’t keep for more than a few days. Keeping some dried cilantro on hand will help you out of emergency cilantro situations or will eliminate the need to keep buying more cilantro as your store-bought stuff goes bad very quickly.
As previously mentioned, there are two camps where people put cilantro. In the “I love it!” camp, cilantro tastes refreshing, anisey, and slightly piney with lemon, mint, and pepper hints. To those in the “I hate it!” camp, cilantro tastes bitter and soapy.
If you are substituting dried cilantro for fresh cilantro, replace it in a 1 to 2 ratio. For every ¼ cup of fresh cilantro, use 2 tablespoons of dried cilantro. ¼ cup of fresh cilantro is roughly equal to 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
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