Cilantro is a zesty herb belonging to the carrot family with roots that go back to ancient times and traditions. It is considered to be one of the first Old World plants in North America, dating back to 1670, when the British first brought it to Massachusetts. Cilantro flourishes in today's cuisine. It is a popular garnish to many Mexican dishes and a refreshing addition to a summer salad.
Cilantro is old. Over 2,000 years ago, the herb could be found flourishing in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Ancient Hebrews used cilantro in their traditional Passover meal. Coriander, a spice that comes from the dried seeds of the same plant, even makes an appearance as an aphrodisiac in "Tales of the Arabian Nights."
Health Benefits of Cilantro
The Chinese used the herb in potions, claiming it had the power to give someone immortal life. While that benefit has yet to be proven, eating cilantro can aid your digestive processes, relieving pain from intestinal gas. Cilantro may even be helpful in treating urinary tract infections as it soothes inflammation. Because the herb is so rich in vitamins, other healing benefits include relieving stress, headaches and nausea.
What's in a Name?
Cilantro is also sometimes called Chinese parsley, and is often confused with parsley because the green feather-like leaves of both plants have a similar look. One way to tell them apart is to smell them. Cilantro is the one with the strong, pungent aroma. Cilantro can also be confused with the spice coriander, which comes from the seeds of the same plant.
Does Anyone Know What it Tastes Like?
There is wide discrepancy among opinions about the taste of cilantro.The herb has a somewhat mystifying taste and aroma that can be difficult to describe. While most people like its fresh and pungent flavor, there is a small minority of people with a strong dislike for cilantro, claiming the herb tastes "soapy." It is thought that the preference may be genetically determined, as many people of European descent claim an aversion to the herb.