Landreth Seed of the Day – Cilantro (Corriander)

The Herb, Cilantro/Coriander

This herb has one of the most curious stories of any plant we know. Coriander was named after a bedbug because the plant and its seeds emit the same unpleasant fragrance that a bedbug emits when it is squished. Cilantro usually refers to the fresh herb. Coriander usually refers to the seed and the dried herb. It is native to the Eastern Mediterranean, but has been cultivated by many of the world’s great civilizations for more than 3000 years. It is believed that the Egyptians were the first to cultivate the herb and that the Hebrews learned about the herb from the Egyptians. Coriander is one of the ‘Bitter Herbs’ that is part of the Hebrew Passover tradition. The Romans, Greeks and Chinese all cultivated the herb. For centuries concoctions of coriander seeds have been created to aid in lovemaking. This tradition is believed to have come from the Arabian fairy tale, The Thousand and One Nights, where coriander seeds were said to be an aphrodisiac. Cilantro/coriander was used by colonial Americans as early as the 1600s – medicinally to aid in digestion and as a flavoring for food. The plant grows best when direct seeded, because it does not transplant well. If purchasing seedlings, make sure to keep the seedlings cool and moist and to water frequently after transplanting.

Note: Cilantro is one of those herbs you either love or hate. I personally love it, in moderate amounts. It is the flavor of what American’s think of as Mexican food, but truly it is the heart and soul of Southeast Asian cuisine. Boil some chicken stock with a dash of fish sauce, squeeze of lime, slice of fresh ginger, a hot chili, and a handful of cilantro and you have the simplest and tastiest Thai spin on chicken soup, Tom Yum, with maybe 10 minutes of work (most of which is waiting for stock to boil). When I was little I hated the taste of cilantro, but as an adult I have come to appreciate it. I started by growing some in my garden, which in those days was a 4×4 box by the door of my first house in Alaska. Every day when I walked into or out of our home, I smelled cilantro. When the lettuces were ready to be harvested, so was the cilantro, so they wound up in the salad bowl together. I’ve been a fan ever since, and now every time I smell cilantro I am transported to a warm summer day on my front porch, gazing at the mountains and breathing in the aroma.

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