Until recently, I knew that some people disliked cilantro, but little did I know how divided my own family was on the matter! An aunt shared an article on facebook about how there’s a genetic reason for why you may or may not think cilantro tastes soapy, and I was astounded at how many of my own family are vehemently against this humble herb. So, if you are in the ant-cilantro camp, forgive me, but this post today is all about it and the deliciousness you can create with it.
Have you ever bought a bunch of cilantro at the store because you needed it for a recipe? And then, because it was the biggest bunch of cilantro ever and you only needed a small fraction of it, it goes bad in your fridge? Have you ever wished you could just buy the amount you needed? Well, I know I have. But because at my grocery store you can only buy cilantro in the pre-bunched bunches, I figured the next best thing was to grow my own.
Cilantro, or Coriandrum sativum, is a member of the Apiaceae family which includes things like parsley, celery, and carrots. Cilantro is really a pretty easy plant to grow – it needs some sunshine, an occasional drink, and it’s good to go. I potted up some seeds and put them on my kitchen windowsill. Because that location doesn’t get the best light, the seedlings (and resulting plants) were a bit leggy, but they grew just fine. The seeds germinate in about 7 days, and (for me) were ready to harvest about a month later. As you clip off the bigger leaves, new leaves emerge and are ready to use in a few days.
If you’re growing cilantro outside, be aware that as the temperatures get warmer it will most likely flower and set seed. This isn’t all bad, though. As you might have noticed from the scientific name, cilantro is also related to coriander – in fact, it is the same plant. When we think or speak of “cilantro”, we’re referring to the leaves; with “coriander”, we’re talking about the seeds. My cilantro has never got to that point, though, so I can’t speak as to how many seeds you get or how many you need to be useful in cooking.
The only problem I encountered with growing cilantro indoors, was that aphids really liked it. To control aphids, insecticidal soaps can be used, but spraying them off with water can also work. Because I had such a small pot of cilantro, I just picked the aphids off or periodically sprayed it with water to knock them off.
I mostly use cilantro as a garnish on tacos, or salads, fajitas, or burritos, occasionally on a sandwich, but for the cilantro I had harvested from my windowsill I had bigger plans: cilantro lime rice (which could be a great accompaniment to the above-listed dishes, or enjoyed on its own). But, if you’re lucky enough to have more cilantro than you can use in one harvest you might want to know how to store it. It could be dried, but would lose much of its flavor, so freezing might be a better option. It could be frozen as is, or the leaves/sprigs could be packed into ice cube trays with a bit of water or olive oil and frozen that way. When it thaws, it will be kind of limp and soggy so probably better suited to being incorporated into the dish, rather than being used as a garnish.
Adapted from this recipe by my good friend Mel (Ok, full disclosure, I have never actually met Mel, and she has no idea that I exist. But, she has excellent taste in food. And food is my love language – besides plants – so I’m pretty sure we’d be friends if ever we were to meet.)
The last time I made this, I used my rice-cooker. It was lovely. I just tossed everything in (swapping the butter out for olive oil), set the timer so it would be done when I got home from work, and let it do it’s thing. Just as good as the “real” way.
1/2 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1/2 cup rice
1 cup chicken broth
zest of one lime
juice of 1/2 lime
dash of black pepper
dash or two of cumin
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the rice. Stir the rice around for a minute or two until it’s nice and coated and getting toasty. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat, but keep it covered, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.