Cilantro: The Other Green Leaf Herb

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Did you ever grab Italian parsley when you meant to get  cilantro? They look so similar, it happens to the best of  us. Both are in the Apiaceae family, cilantro being the  green brother that’s a bit lighter in weight and color. Its other siblings are  carrot, caraway, fennel, celery, and the lovely roadside Queen Anne’s lace.

Cilantro leads a double life as leaf herb/spice seed. We are mostly familiar  with the leaves’ fresh taste in guacamole, salads, and salsas. The cilantro  flower’s seed, known to us as coriander, is used in many exotic and  everyday dishes.

The other duality we find with cilantro is that some people love love love it, and other people, well, despise it. Dr. Charles Wysocki, a behavioral  neuroscientist at Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center, an  independent nonprofit research center, researched this herbal schism.  He had 41 pairs of twins taste cilantro and determined that affection or  aversion to it is likely genetic. Dr. Wysocki contends that dislike seems  to stem from cilantro’s odor, not its taste. It appears that Cilantro Haters  are unable to detect chemicals in the herb’s leaves that are pleasing to  Cilantro Lovers. A small number of people are actually allergic to the herb,  but they don’t usually complain about the taste, just the hives or other  symptoms that come after ingesting dishes that include it.

Cilantro is a good source of magnesium and iron and also reportedly  has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. If you’re in the  “I ♥ Cilantro” camp, then you’ll likely find many ways to use this delightful  herb. Cilantro is a wonderful nosegay for those with the schnoz for it.

Preparation: Try it as an alternative to basil in a pesto or to parsley in  chimichurri. You can make a tasty cilantro/lime butter, brighten mango  salsa, or sprinkle on tacos or curried dishes.

Storage: The best way to store fresh herbs is to plunk them like a bouquet  in a jar one-third full of water and place a plastic bag over the top.

 

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