When I was in my late teens, I went on a backpacking trip in Northern California. The weather was warm, and I clearly remember being on a hike near a reservoir. At some point in the hike, I slipped down a small slope that was covered with wild cilantro. At that point in my life, I would have rather fallen into a pit of poison oak because I hated the smell of cilantro so much. Flash forward way too many years to count and even more culinary adventures, and I can proudly say that I actually like cilantro!
And so I tread carefully into cilantro land this week as I know there will be many haters. Did you know there is actually an I Hate Cilantro blog as well as a Facebook group with over 3000 members dedicated to haters of cilantro? Even Julia Child hated the herb! Apparently, there is scientific evidence to indicate that cilantro hating may be genetic (oh, good, something else to blame your parents on). I’m not sure what turned the tide for me. All I can say is that I hated the stuff and now I think it is a culinary necessity to have in my herb garden. It adds a brightness to food that parsley can’t always accomplish.
Cilantro, which is also know as coriander, is one of the oldest herbs, with historical mentions dating back to 5000 B.C.E. Cilantro is both an herb and a spice since its seeds are also dried and used. In ancient times it was used as a perfume, and to preserve meat. It contains over 80 nutrients, and is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. Medicinally, it has been used for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. On the culinary front, cilantro is most popular in Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Growing cilantro is easy, especially from seed. Soak the seeds in room temperature water for 24 hours to start the germination process. Plant your seeds and cover with 1/4 of soil. When your seedlings are 2-3″ tall you can thin them out 4″ a part. Cilantro needs full sun but can handle afternoon shade. In fact, too much hot sun will cause the plant to bolt or go to seed. Plant Cilantro in the fall or early spring. Like dill, I always let a few plants go to seed. The flowers attract beneficial insects, and you can harvest the seeds to use again.
So tell me, I can take it…are you a lover or a hater? (Don’t worry, there will be a super yummy cilantro cocktail on Friday!)