|Image Source: Wikipedia.org|
Sorry, folks, I sort of dropped the ball yesterday when it came to posting this. I've just been super busy around here. But, here you are! Our friend, Cilantro! Also be sure to check these posts out if you are interested in recipes as everything I cover in Totally Natural Tuesday posts has different recipes with it :).
Cilantro, otherwise known as Chinese parsley, is grown for both it's distinctive spicy-flavored foliage as well as for it's seeds.
Cilantro is really two herbs in one as it's seeds, called Coriander, are used in various culinary applications including candy and pastries. The leaves/foliage is known as Cilantro and is a staple in Spanish, Asian and other international cuisine. Oddly enough Coriander and Cilantro taste NOTHING alike, so be sure never to substitute one for the other in a recipe.
Cilantro is an annual that likes cool weather, but does not tolerate frost at all well. It will grow 2 to 3 feet tall in the spring or fall. Cilantro is a delicate plant with lacy pungent smelling leaves and it bears white or pinkish blossoms when the weather gets warm.
In gardens use Cilantro as a back border plant, or plant it in a bed dedicated to annuals with other plants such as dill so that the plant can easily reseed.
Cilantro prefers well drained soil with a PH of 6.6 and is a full sun plant. Plant in the Spring when the threat of frost has passed if you live in a cold climate (like say, oh, Alaska ;).
Cilantro possesses very delicate roots, so it does not transplant at all well, so it is best to sow from seeds where you want the plant to grow. Plant it during cool moist weather for best chances of success. Keep seeds moist during the germination process and then when seedlings reach three inches tall, thin them to ten inches apart.
Once the plant blossoms the foliage dies off, so be sure to harvest the plant every three to four weeks during the summer to get the most out of the plant. After harvesting be sure to treat with a balanced liquid fertilizer to help the plant recover from the harvesting.
Cilantro's flowers eventually turn into a small edible fruit with an edible inner seed (coriander). While the fresh seeds have a pungent odor like the plant as the seeds dry they become more fragrant and loose the pungent smell.
Cilantro, if allowed to reseed, will return the following year (so say the books, but I'm not sure if you could bank on that up here).
Use the foliage from Cilantro chopped fresh in various Mexican inspired dishes (salsas, spiced black beans, etc). You can also use the carrot-like root in Asian dishes as it has a much more intense flavor than the leaves. Cilantro should be added at the last minute in most dishes, but it is a powerful flavor and will easily overwhelm a dish, so use it carefully.
If you harvest the seed pods and wait for them to dry and split, you can use Coriander in a variety of dishes including relishes, pickles and a variety of Indian dishes.
RECIPES USING CILANTRO
This is a pretty simple, and universal way of making salsa (read, super easy).
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coarse chopped is fine)
- 2 1/2 TBS lime juice (preferably fresh)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 medium can of diced tomatoes, drained
Place all items except tomatoes into food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Take vegetable mixture and tomatoes and place in a bowl. Stir to combine well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Can be stored in fridge up to 1 week.
Want a garlic free salsa? Try my Mango Salsa instead (it calls for Cilantro too :).
Mexican Lime Chicken
(inspired by a 30 Minute Meals episode I watched years ago)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I actually use 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs instead since we like dark meat better around here)
- 2 TBS fresh lime juice
- 1 TBS honey
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
- Grill seasoning of choice (I use my home made Montreal Steak Seasoning)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
1. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle grill seasoning over chicken breasts. Mix up marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine and then pour over chicken breasts. Let marinade 20 minutes (don't go longer than an hour or the chicken will start to pick up odd flavors from the lime juice breaking it down too much and then it doesn't hold up well to grilling either).
2. Place chicken breasts in a hot grill pan or on a hot grill and cook 10 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches 167 degrees.
3. Place on a platter and let rest for 7 to 10 minutes before serving.
This goes GREAT with tortillas, black beans and even french fries (if you want a quick option).
DISCLAIMER: I am not a botanist (that is someone who studies plants, right?), nor an herbologist, nor a naturpath, nor a professional chef. I just plain like this stuff and get my nerd on sharing it with other people. I take the information for "Totally Natural Tuesday" from various sources. From a myriad of herb books I have around my house, to old country knowledge from my relatives (including my mom who grew up on a farm), to the internet, down to seed packets (yes, I read those too). So, please do not consider me an expert on this stuff and anything I share in these segments is not being perscribed to cure or treat any disease and has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA (well it might be with the descriptions, but let's cover our bases shall we?). Recipes shared are usually ones that I printed out years ago and changed to suit my needs/tastes and have no idea where they come from at this time, so please don't sue me for stealing your recipe as honestly, unless otherwise sourced, I have no idea where they came from originally.