Monday, July 12, 2010
Cilantro, coriander, Chinese parsley; all refer to the same plant whose botanical name is coriandrum sativum. A member of the parsley family, cilantro is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and has a history of thousands of years of culinary and medicinal use. Coriander seed pods which date back more than 7000 years have been discovered in ancient caves by Israeli archeologists; the seed is mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible in what must be its earliest literary reference.
Cilantro's fresh aromatic flavor as well as its ultra healthy nutrients make it a valuable kitchen staple; its roots, seeds and leaves are prized by cooks of many ethnicities. Cilantro and parsley are the two top U.S. fresh herbs; the market value of the California cilantro crop now exceeds $30 million annually. An ample supply of affordable organic California grown cilantro is available year round.
When shopping for cilantro, select fresh bright green unwilted specimens. Cilantro does not have a long shelf life but when handled properly it will keep for several days in your fridge. Before storing cilantro, remove wire fasteners or rubber bands, discard damaged or discolored leaves and wrap the stems in a clean damp paper towel. Place in a clean dry plastic bag without crushing the leaves; close loosely. Remember to wash cilantro thoroughly before using.
It's easy to incorporate cilantro into your kitchen repertoire; chop a handful and add to raw vegetable or fruit salads, stir fried vegetables, soups and stews. Garnish your favorite legume dishes with cilantro, lemon or lime juice and fresh chile peppers. Special cilantro recipe to follow!