Cilantro/Coriander

A member of the parsley family, both the plant and its fruit are featured extensively in Asian, Latin, and Indian cuisines. You'll find it enhancing the flavor of Chinese soups, Indian masalas, and Mexican salsas. But is coriander a spice or a herb? Technically, the word coriander can be used to describe the entire plant: leaves, stems, seeds, and all. However, when speaking of coriander, most people are referring to the spice produced from the seeds of the plant. The leaves of the plant are commonly called cilantro, which comes from the Spanish word for coriander. I can't imagine a spicy, Mexican salsa without it. Although not native to Latin American cuisine, cilantro just seems to go with chilis, adding its distinctive flavor to other dishes as well. Coriander looks like flat-leaved parsley. The seed is sold both whole and ground and is the main ingredient in curry powder. It has a sweet taste reminiscent of orange peel. Little is known about the origins of the coriander plant, although it is generally thought to be native to the Mediterranean and parts of southwestern Europe. Experts believe its use dates back to at least 5,000 BC. References to coriander can be found in Sanskrit writings, and the seeds were placed in Egyptian tombs. It is even mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 16:31, where manna is described as "small round and white like coriander seed." The ancient Hebrews  originally used cilantro root as the bitter herb in the symbolic Passover meal. Thanks to the Romans and their conquests, cilantro's use and legend spread to Europe and Asia, where it appeared in recipes for potions used as aphrodisiacs in China during the Han dynasty (207 BC-200 AD). The Romans  themselves used coriander with cumin and vinegar as a preservative which they rubbed into meat. 

More recently, coriander plants were flourishing in Massachussetts by the early 1600's, one of the first herbs grown by the American colonists. And seventeenth century Frenchmen used distilled coriander to make a type of liquor. Today, cilantro is cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world. The root is used fresh and minced in salads and relishes in Thai cooking. In fact, Chinese, Thai, and Indonesian cuisines are well known for their use of both cilantro and coriander Coriander has been used as a flavoring and medicine since ancient times. oriander is used to treat digestive ailments and colic. It can be applied externally for rheumatism and painful joints. It improves the flavor of other medicinal preparations. Ayurvedic uses include neuralgia, indigestion, vomiting, intestinal disorders, conjunctivitis, skin/rash problems, urogenital system (burning urethra, cystitis, infections, etc.), sore throat, allergies, hay fever, skin rashes, bleeding hemorrhoids, and eye disorders. Chinese herbalists use coriander seeds to treat indigestion, anorexia, and stomachache. Chinese herbalists suggests that coriander herb can be used to treat influenza in which there is no sweating. It is also used in perfumes, liqueurs and gin. Coriander seeds are ground into a paste for application to skin and mouth ulcers. Before the invention of toothpaste, coriander seeds were chewed as a breath sweetener. Diabetics should include it in their diet as it falls into the category of botanical hypoglycemics, or plants that lower blood sugar when eaten regularly. 

Growing coriander is easy, requiring partial shade to full sun, moderately rich soil, and good drainage. It is very attractive to bees and other beneficial insects, and also has the reputation of repelling aphids. Coriander grows uickly and reseeds itself easily. Coriander will not grow well in humid climates. It needs a dry summer and a sunny location. Seeds are sown directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed. It also does well as a container plant on a sunny porch or balcony. Stems are weak and the plant may require staking. In very warm climates it benefits from light shade. Sow seeds outdoors when all danger of frost has passed. Thin plants to 4 inches apart. Keep the plant pinched back to restrain it from going to seed too quickly. The tender, young leaves are the tastiest. I plant new starts every few week to keep an ongoing supply available all summer. It also bolts rather quickly when the temperature warms up, so successive sowings will ensure a steady supply. If you want to harvest the leaves, fertilize a week after planting with fish emulsion to provide extra nitrogen. Use a balanced organic fertilizer when you want to harvest for seed. To harvest the seeds, wait until they have turned from green to brown, then dry in a warm, airy place over a cloth or hang upside-down to dry inside a paper bag. Rub a handful of seeds between your hands to release the edible seed from the seed coat. Freeze seeds for 48 hours before storing in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place. To release the best flavor, crush the seeds in a mortar just as you are ready to use them . Harvest the leaves before the plant bolts and use fresh or freeze. To keep fresh cilantro in the refrigerator for several days, cut off the stem ends and place the bunch in a glass of water. 

Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) is perennial with a flavor very similar to cilantro. It is used in warm climates where cilantro seeds quickly.Vietnamese coriander grows best in part shade with ample moisture.

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If you have an aquarium, save the water each time you change it and water your house plants with it.  

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Plants need water. But not too much water. Over watering and under watering are both bad for the plants. Over watering prevents the plants from creating deep root systems. Then they need to be watered frequently. Deep root systems can pick up more water. Water your plants deeply about once a week. Make sure the water goes deep and is not just a surface watering. Too much water can suffocate your plants. They need oxygen and water soaked earth can't hold oxygen that the plant can access. Under watering dehydrates your plants. This stresses them and can lead to weakened and susceptible plants. 

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Brandie

"Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest." 

 

 
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