The Sweet Life Gardener Cilantro

By Alisa Murray

Hey Sweet Lifers!  I love cilantro!  I use it in all meals starting with on my eggs for breakfast, in my pasta dishes and with every meat.  I tried growing it over the past several years, and every time I tried, it would look real nice for about two weeks, and then it would either bolt or die. I had pretty much given up on growing it, figuring that it’s just too hot here to make to really take off. And then, something really wonderful happened.  I looked in the most ridiculous place, behind my pool where there’s always shade, and there I found a sea of cilantro! It was like an explosion of the herb starting growing in a large space and where most would have found this annoying. I was, and still am, nothing short of ecstatic! I was like, huh, you want to grow here? Well, be my guest!

The herb, as you can see, can be quite finicky to get started, but once you do, look out! It is a member of the carrot family, and carrots love to grow under tomatoes for those of you following a companion planting process in your gardens. They like a bit of shade and/or dappled sunshine to be at their best. It is one of the oldest herbs, and it is thought to have started in the Mediterranean area. There are many who believe it actually originated in the Nahal Henar cave in Israel. Its seeds are called coriander, and they have been found in the Egyptian tombs – even that of King Tut!  Coriander is also mentioned in the Bible in Exodus and in the first cookbook ever written by Apicius, De Re Coquinaria, written in 14 A.D.

Culinarily speaking, cilantro seems to have a love or hate fanfare. Some people say that it tastes like soap, and others love it making for an interesting discussion point at the dinner table. Cilantro is chock full of many necessary nutrients for optimum health rich in Vitamins A, E, K and folate. Additionally, it contains calcium, iron and potassium. This herb is among the “big four seasoning” in Thai cooking and works well with soy sauce and harder produce, such as pineapple, cucumbers and mangos. It is also a big must have in Mexican cooking used in marinades on ceviche, a must have ingredient for salsas and menudo soup should never be lacking a generous handful atop diced jalapeño and quest fresco!

Medicinally, cilantro and coriander have been used for millennia in holistic medicine for treatment of insomnia, indigestion and gas and gut problems. The herb has been shown to be effective in assisting the body to flush our heavy metals, often a side effect of chemotherapy. It also is an effective aid in treating and killing salmonella due to the antibacterial compound dodecanal found in its’ leaves. Most recently there has been some promise for assisting with diabetes treatments.

As you can see, cilantro or coriander is another one of those herbs that packs a punch and should be a staple in all of our gardens. A few things I like to do with mine is to puree it with garlic and olive oil and freeze into cubes for dropping into soups and salad dressings. I also love to take dried and crunched cilantro and add powdered garlic, smoked paprika, ground ginger and a pinch of brown sugar and rub on pork and chicken. Any way I use it I love it as cilantro is one of my most favorite herbs!

Keep on growing!