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Cooking With Cilantro

A bold herb’s growing appeal.

| August/September 1998

  • Cilantro’s delicate, scalloped leaves hold the bold flavor.
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • To slow the bolting that ­occurs when the ­temperature climbs, try moving a potted cilantro to a shady location.
    Photograph by Sally McCrae Kuyper
  • Each of these lacy umbels will yield ­fragrant coriander seeds.
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • Mango Salsa, a fruit and spice delight
    Photograph by Joe Coca
  • Cilantro and roasted chiles speck this Arroz Verde and spark the flavor of many other Mexican dishes.
    Photograph by Joe Coca
  • Each of these lacy umbels will yield ­fragrant coriander seeds.
  • Each of these lacy umbels will yield ­fragrant coriander seeds.
  • Each of these lacy umbels will yield ­fragrant coriander seeds.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a gift to any garden, offering ornamental, culinary, medicinal, and aromatic allure. During its three-month growing cycle, this annual herb produces an abundance of pungent, savory emerald foliage, then a profusion of lacy white flower umbels, and finally the flurry of small, round fruits known as coriander seeds, redolent of citrus and spice.

Cilantro has a bad reputation in some quarters. Many warm-weather gardeners find it hard to grow, and some abhor its intensely robust flavor and aroma. In fact, the words “coriander” and Coriandrum both come from the Greek koris, “bedbug”, because of the herb’s supposed similarity in odor to that of the stinky insect.

I think cilantro is simply misunderstood. Here’s my advice to cilantro skeptics: Grow it during the cooler months to delay bolting and produce healthy foliage that’s packed with flavor. When cooking with it, partner cilantro with other strong-flavored ingredients.

Cilantro Recipes:

• Mango Salsa
• Frijoles a la Charra (Ranch-Style Beans in Tomato Sauce)
• Caldo de Pollo (Chicken Broth)
• Pollo Encilantrado (Shredded Chicken in Cilantro Sauce)
• Sopa de Cilantro (Cilantro Soup)
• Arroz Verde (Green Rice) 

The Taste Of Cilantro

Millions of people around the world rely on the fresh zip of cilantro. In fact, it’s one of the most popular herbs in the world. Cilantro’s lively personality makes it an irreplaceable ingredient in Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian, and Mexican and other Latin American foods. It serves as a foil for the assertive chiles, garlic, onions, other herbs, and spices used in these cuisines.

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