Cilantro and coriander have two very different flavors, but come from the same plant. Cilantro refers to the fresh leaves used as an herb, and coriander to the seeds used as a spice. The medicinal and nutritional qualities are very different as well. Also called Chinese parsley and Mexican parsley, cilantro is a fragrant mix of parsley, sage, and citrus, and is the focus of this post.
History of Cilantro
Probably one of the first herbs to be used by mankind, perhaps going as far back as 5000 BC. It is mentioned in early Sanskrit writings dating from about 1500 BC. Although most often associated with the cuisines of Mexico and Asia, the herb originated around the Mediterranean.
Cilantro has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back 3000 years. It is mentioned in the Bible where manna is described as “small round and white like coriander seed.” The ancient Hebrews originally used the root as the bitter herb in the symbolic Passover meal. The leaves were formerly common in European cuisine but disappeared before the modern period. Today Europeans usually eat the leaves only in dishes that originated in foreign cuisines. Cilantro has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine.
How to use Cilantro
It is best stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers. The leaves do not keep well and should be eaten quickly, as they lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
Food as medicine
The leaves contain essential oils with antimicrobial properties. A compound called dodecenal in the leaves may be effective protection against bacterias like E. Coli and Salmonella that cause food poisoning, and H. Pylori that causes other gastrointestinal problems.
Cilantro inhibits the deposition of mercury and lead into the bone and other tissues, and may also facilitate their elimination.
A great source of the minerals iron, magnesium and manganese. Also high in antioxidants, chlorophyll and phytochemicals including limonene, camphor, and quercetin, make this a super food.
Grow your own Cilantro
Coriandrum sativum is relatively easy to grow requiring partial shade to full sun, moderately rich soil, and good drainage.