Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Staples in the Mexican kitchen include beans, rice, cheese, tortillas, hot peppers, tomatoes and the herb cilantro. Although I don’t know how to cook Indian cuisine, coriander (seeds produced by cilantro) is a common spice used in Indian cooking, especially in curry. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), also known as Mexican parsley, has delicate, thin green leaves and stems that grow about two feet high.
Cilantro has delicate, thin green leaves and stems.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas
The foliage has a distinct light herbal aroma when cut or crushed. The small white flowers produce multitudes of small, round brown seeds a little smaller than BB’s for a BB gun, that are easy to collect and save for planting the next crop.
My husband is Mexican, and I include many aspects of Mexican cooking and Mexican dishes in our family’s weekly food preparations. It is an essential ingredient in fresh salsa, is used as a delicious topping for meat in tacos and is a seasoning in soups. I personally like to add fresh chopped cilantro to my mixed salads. Fresh and dried cilantro is readily available in local grocery stores, but there are some drawbacks to using store-bought herbs. I find that, a lot of times, the cilantro in our local stores is annoyingly full of sand and has to be thoroughly rinsed before use. The older the cilantro leaves are, the more likely they are to rot, turning to a disgusting black mush that is very unappealing. Cutting fresh cilantro from a pot or from the garden bypasses these frustrating handling problems.
Cilantro is an easy herb to grow in pots on the patio or in a sunny window.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas
Cilantro is very easy to plant, grow and harvest. The seeds tossed into a pot of rich potting soil and watered well, and kept in the sun, will sprout in a week or so. Nothing else besides regular watering is needed for a healthy crop of leafy green herbs ready for cutting as needed. Cut fresh cilantro when cooking or cut it weekly and keep it in the fridge in a plastic bag until needed. Chopped cilantro can also be put in ice cube trays with water to make frozen cilantro cubes to store in a freezer bag for use in soups when needed. Plant a separate pot or plot in the garden to let the plants flower and go to seed for a crop of coriander to plant the next crop or for culinary use.