Friday, March 12, 2010

Two for the price of one

Two for the Price of one
Well in today's crazy economy 2 for 1 sounds pretty good. Of coarse I,m referring to a particular spice / herb plant here. The leaves of this plant are better know as cilantro while the fruit or seeds are better known as coriander. Now even though it is the same plant there is a world of difference in taste. Before we get into all that lets take a short look at the history of this plant,

If you tried researching this you will see that it is not known 100% where this plant originated from. Best guess "according to the experts" say somewhere in the Mediterranean and southern European region. It does date back many years though and is even made mention of in early biblical days in the book of Exodus in the 16th chapter. Coriander seeds have also been discovered in Egyptian tombs which would indicate to be a valuable commodity in those days. It was around the 1600's that this plant made it's way into America. It was one of the first herbs grown by our colonist. Today it is being cultivated in many regions around the world. So is it a herb or spice? Well in my mind this particular plant gets the thumbs up on both counts. If you utilize the fresh leaves it's a herb, while the seeds are dried and used as a spice. So both terms are correct.

Ok so back to the taste difference's. Cilantro which are the leaves have a very pungent or strong flavor and it seems that folks will either love or hate the taste it produces. It is mainly served up as an herb or fresh in many eastern type dishes. When dried it tends to lose some of it's potent flavor.
The seeds commonly known as Coriander have a nutty spicy citrus flavor. These after being dried can be used whole or in a ground form and can be mixed with other spices to create a unique spice blends. This herb/spice plant is a member of the parsley family.

There are many recipes that call for coriander it's not just an ethenic food additive. Plus there is, as with all spices, a positive health benefit associated with coriander too. ( Also see "Health benefits without the work" )

Now there are also many cilantro recipes too. Both cilantro or coriander seeds have been and are still finding their way into american kitchens ,and that is a good thing. The only word of advise here though, is that even though they are harvested from the same plant they can not be interchanged in recipes. So whether you call it a cilantro or coriander plant is not that important. The great reward is the wide range of uses you receive from this one plant. Also for those of you who like to grow your own herbs/spices cilantro can be cultivated outside or in the home itself. Although it does prefer warmer climates it is an easy plant to grow.

So find a recipe that sounds fun and give it a whirl. Then while you are at your local grocery pick up the fresh cilantro in the produce section, or coriander seeds on the spice isle. What ever is needed for your new dining creation. You might find that you and your family may have a new favorite dish. You never know, but the fun is in the trying.