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Cilantro

Cilantro

“Cilantro” is the word for the leaves taken from the coriander plant. This little herb packs a big flavor that works well with grilled meats, veggies, salsas and summery dishes.

Nutritional Highlights

  • This herb contains vitamin K, a nutrient that helps blood coagulate. It takes just one-quarter cup of chopped cilantro to deliver 16 percent of your Daily Value of vitamin K. Keep in mind, though, that most recipes only call for a pinch of the herb.
  • A bunch of cilantro also contains Vitamin A, which helps promote healthy eyes.

History

In humankind's first-ever encyclopedia, written in 79 AD, cilantro pops up in an entry on coriander: Pliny the Elder, the author, notes that, "while green, it is possessed of very cooling and refreshing properties." Even then, cilantro had been popular for centuries.

When is Cilantro in Season?

The herb is usually harvested in early autumn, though it can be grown in greenhouses all year round.

Varieties

There's only one. In the grocery store, it'll be in the produce aisle, usually either pre-chopped and boxed, or sold fresh, whole and in bundles.

How to Choose Cilantro

Fresh cilantro packs the most flavor. Look for it tied in bunches, often right next to fresh parsley. They look similar, so be careful! Fresh cilantro bundles will be bright green and show no sign of yellowing or darkening.

How to Store Cilantro

This part can be a little tricky. Fresh cilantro is still a living plant, complete with leaves, stems and roots – for that reason, it keeps best if you treat it like one. Place the cilantro's roots in a glass of water, covering the top with a small plastic bag. Now, place this little herbal bouquet in the fridge. Change its water every couple of days, and snip off cilantro leaves as needed. Note: Moisture can make cilantro go bad quickly, so don't rinse the leaves until after you've picked them.

How to Prepare Cilantro

Since it's an herb, there's really no prep involved. After you've snipped off a few leaves, simply wash them in cold tap water.

Cooking with Cilantro

Like parsley, cilantro is more of a garnish than a major ingredient. However, parsley doesn't have much of a taste, whereas cilantro is practically bursting with flavor. For his reason, most recipes will call for just a few cilantro leaves.

Key Measurements

Most recipes that call for cilantro will use one of these measurements:

  • 1 tsp – A teaspoonful of chopped fresh leaves, or
  • 1 tbsp – A tablespoonful of the same, or
  • 1/4 cup – Recipes that are more cilantro-heavy may call for one-quarter cup of the herb.

Substitutions

Most people find cilantro's flavor to be zesty, citrusy, tangy and bright. However, a small minority of folks don't care for the taste. (Scientists think people inherit a dislike of cilantro from their parents.) If you find that the herb isn't to your liking, you can use parsley leaves instead. These are milder, sweeter and less noticeable.

Cilantro in Recipes

With its unique flavor, cilantro complements spring and summer dishes, especially grilled fish or chicken, rice, corn, guacamole and salsas.

Here's an easy recipe for pasta topped with Baked Salmon and Cilantro. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and if you're planning on entertaining, just double the measurements.

For a Mexican meal, Cilantro-Lime Rice goes great with enchiladas, burritos or steak tips.

And if you'd like a low-calorie twist on your favorite chip dips, try this recipe for Cilantro-Lime Salsa, which combines tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, lime juice, salt and cilantro in a spicy, perky mix.

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