Cilantro has quickly become one of my favorite garden plants. It is incredibly easy to grow, and its beautiful leaves add a fresh burst of flavor to so many summertime dishes. Add its many health benefits and medicinal properties to the mix, and it’s no wonder I grow this plant several of my gardens! 😉
This is the fifth post in our Spotlight on Herbs series.
Is it Cilantro or Coriander?
Actually, it’s both! In culinary circles, the leaves of the coriander plant are referred to as cilantro. The seeds are the coriander spice we know and love. Although only a few varieties have the broad leaves so favored for use in the kitchen, all cilantro is a part of Coriandrum sativum.
In my experience, cilantro is an incredibly easy plant to grow. The seeds can be sowed directly in the garden at any time after the last frost. It loves sun, but will grow in shade. It also grows quickly, sending up leaves ready for harvest in only a few weeks. And at the end of its life cycle, it reseeds by itself. Once you start it, your cilantro patch will grow quite quickly on its own.
A word of caution, though: cilantro is quick to bolt in the summer heat. Once it bolts, the leaves thin out, turn bitter, and are no longer good for eating. Not all is lost, though, since it will soon burst out in edible white flowers and then produce the yummy coriander seeds. To keep a continuous supply of greens, I plant cilantro every few weeks all summer long. If you live in the south, you may want to consider growing cilantro in the spring and fall, since heat does effect both the growth and taste of the leaves. There are also varieties, such as Santo Cilantro (which I grow in my garden), that are less susceptible to bolting.
Culinary Uses for Cilantro
- chop and add to homemade salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole
- mix into salads and vegetable dishes
- use to garnish spicy soups and chillis
- mix with other herbs in pesto
- blend with garlic, ginger, lime, jalapeño, and coconut milk for a wonderful fresh-tasting sauce
- pair with chicken and fish
- add a little zip to tacos, nachos, and quesadillas
- throw a few leaves into your smoothie for the health benefits
Some people loathe the taste of cilantro. If you are one of these, you are not alone! The chemical make-up of the plant does produce flavours that are described as “soapy” by some people. My husband does not appreciate the flavour, but doesn’t mind it when paired with other strong flavours, or when subdued in a coconut milk sauce. I personally love the flavour and couldn’t imagine making salsa or guacamole without it!
Medicinal Uses and Benefits of Coriander
- removes heavy metals from the body (the most well-known use of coriander)
- aids in digestion, prevents flatulence, and helps the intestine to produce necessary enzymes
- can protect against food-borne illness such as salmonella
- lowers blood-sugar and may benefit those with diabetes
- antiseptic and anti-fungal
- may be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol
- full of nutrients including iron, fiber, magnesium, flavonoids, and phytonutrients
Do you grow cilantro in your garden? What are your favorite ways to use it?
...without giving up the foods you love or spending all day in the kitchen!
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