Cilantro is an plant that grows worldwide and has some amazing health benefits. Cilantro, or Coriandrum sativum, goes by many interchangeable names. It is a member of the parsley family, Apiaceae, which gives us a hint as to why it is often called Mexican Parsley and Chinese Parsley. The parsley-like leaves are the main part we like to eat, but the seeds of the cilantro plant are a spice called coriander; hence the Latin name Coriandrum. Coriander is a major spice in India where it makes up one of the three base spices for creating balanced and healthy curry: 3 parts coriander, 2 parts cumin, 1 part turmeric. I like to think that the confusion in naming this wonderful plant can be seen as a tribute to its wellness benefits. If varied cultures across the globe have all found it useful for thousands of years, I feel like its worth taking some time to learn more about it myself.
Health benefits: Ancient and modern research both seem to point to several positive benefits of cilantro. Many of those benefits have to do with improving digestion, detoxification, and helping to process carbs and sugars throughout the body. In addition to aiding in these important functions, cilantro provides many valuable vitamins, antioxidants and essential oils.
For general use at home, it is most helpful as a nutrient filled cooling summer herb. Have you ever noticed that cilantro is very often included in salsas? The leaves aid digestion and increase pungency without increasing the acid levels of the salsa. They bring cooling energetic tones and flush out the taste profile of the salsa making it healthier and tastier.
Growing and Harvesting: Here are just a few tips to get you started with growing your own. We can grow it here in central Wisconsin easily, but if that’s not of interest to you, you can always pick it up at the local supermarket. Growing cilantro yourself keeps a steady and cheap supply available all summer long.
1: Scar the seeds a bit to improve the rate of germination; their husks are quite tough.
2: Plant it in cooler areas with semi shade to slow down the speed of bolting. Hot temperatures trigger it to change its growth pattern to making seeds instead of more delicious leaves.
3: A simple plan that includes multiple sowings and regular harvest can keep your cilantro habit going all summer. Try planting cilantro every 4-6 weeks. It only takes about 2 weeks after planting before you can harvest the leaves, so trim the plant heavily every 14-10 days to keep it providing lots of fresh leaves.
4: Most common pests will leave it alone, so the leaves are often very healthy and easy to prep for eating. The only issue is that they are often dusty and collect dirt, but that is easily remedied with washing.