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 â™¥ 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.