The Difference Between Cilantro and Coriander
You don’t need to be a landowner or have the know-how of a master gardener to grow a thriving herb garden. As long as you provide good soil and the necessary sun and water, plants such as rosemary, basil, and sage grow well in pots right outside your kitchen, providing a source of fresh flavor for your main dish salads, pesto, and vegetable dishes. Do your homework, of course, to learn the specific needs of each different herb – some prefer direct sunlight, some need more shade, and some (talking about you, lavender) simply have a hard time tolerating the humidity here in the South. It is also a good idea to know the different names and parts of the same plant, so you don’t get confused at the garden center. For example, do you know the difference between cilantro and coriander? Are they two separate plants or the same one? Cilantro is the name for the leaves and stems of the coriander plant. When the plant flowers and turns to seed, the seeds are called coriander. Cilantro is also the Spanish word for coriander.
Cilantro is the Leaf and Stem
The serrated-edged cilantro (leaves as well as stems) has a distinctive flavor that lends itself to highly spiced foods, such as Asian, Caribbean, and Latin American dishes. When cooking with fresh cilantro, or any fresh herb, it is best to add the chopped leaves and stems at the end of the recipe or sprinkled across the finished dish. Sometimes referred to as Chinese Parsley or coriander leaves, in most grocery stores the herb is simply labeled cilantro. A bunch of cilantro can be stored for up to 1 week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Or place the bunch, stems down, in a glass of water and cover with a plastic bag securing the bag to the glass with a rubber band. Place in the refrigerator and change the water every 2-3 days.
If you have an empty windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight, you have the perfect place for an indoor herb garden. Fresh herbs not only give you an extra pop of flavor in your dishes at mealtime, but the plants add extra color to your kitchen decor.
Coriander is the Seed
The flavors of the tiny coriander seed and the cilantro leaf bear no resemblance to each other; the seeds have an aromatic flavor similar to a combination of lemon, sage, and caraway. Whole coriander seeds are used in pickling and in special drinks, such as mulled wine. Ground seed is used in many baked goods, curry blends, and soups. To intensify the flavor of coriander seeds, toast the seeds before using. Place the seeds in a dry skillet and heat over medium heat until they become fragrant. This will take just a few minutes, so watch carefully so the seeds don’t burn. Once you toast them, crush them using a mallet or bottom of a heavy skillet. Or pulse them a few times in a clean coffee grinder.