Cilantro is a common ingredient in salsa and Mexican dishes but did you know it dates as far back as the ancient Egyptians? Coriander seeds which stem from the same plant as cilantro have been found in Egyptian tombs and writings involving coriander can be seen in Sanskrit which dates from around 1500 BC. Cilantro is a versatile herb that is is commonly used in salsas, dips, dressings and sauces. This aromatic, citrus flavored herb is a member of the carrot family and can be used dried or fresh. The seeds from this herb are harvested and dried and are known as coriander. The green stems and leaves are the herb known as cilantro.
Cilantro is sometimes sold in the grocery store as something else and if you can't find it in your supermarket try looking for Mexican parsley. Since cilantro is commonly used in Mexico and Mexican cooking, it is often called Mexican parsley but it is good in other types of cooking as well and you can even find Chinese recipes calling for Chinese parsley which is the same as cilantro. When looking for cilantro in your supermarket look for nice fresh bunches much like bunches of parsley. In fact, you will probably find it right next to the parsley in the produce section.
Don't purchase the parsley by mistake though because it is not the same thing! You can easily tell the difference between cilantro and parsley by inspecting at the leaves and smelling the herb. The leaves of cilantro are wider than parsley and cilantros scent is very aromatic. Cooking with fresh cilantro is a great way to make gourmet foods and the longer you keep your bunch of cilantro fresh the better! When you bring cilantro home from the supermarket put the bunch in a glass of water like a bouquet with only the stems submerged. Loosely cover the green leaves with a plastic bag which will help keep your cilantro fresh.
When cooking with cilantro, remember, it is best when you crush the tender leaves with a mortar and pestle. This helps to release the full bodied flavor. Always add the cilantro towards the end of cooking. The delicate nature of cilantro does not hold up to heat so waiting until the very end will insure the best taste from the versatile and aromatic herb. .
By: Lee Dobbins