Photo by Mark Kane
Seeds or Leaves, in the Pot
The green leaves of cilantro, an annual herb, flavor much of the cooking of the Mediterranean countries. Adults who are newcomers to the flavor divide into instant fans or instant detractors who wonder why the fans like the thing. I’m a big fan, after years of savoring tajines and couscous in Morocco. These days, I mince parsley and coriander together (with fresh ginger) to flavor soups of autumn crops such as carrots and squashes. In Morocco cooks remove the leaves from the stems. I do too, when I feel patient. This avoids stringy bits of stem in every spoonful of soup.
Cilantro is a fast herb. Some varieties grow from seeds to 12-inch plants in only five to six weeks. You can provide yourself with fresh cuttings from early spring to mid-summer and again from late summer to late Autumn by sowing a dozen seeds every four weeks. The plant is small, and grows in an open cluster of upright lightly branching stems. You cut the stems you need or the whole plant. Left unharvested, a plant quickly bolts and ages and is soon unfit for use as a fresh herb. The dried seeds are ground to make a spice that is usually called coriander. They have their own flavor, a more pungent version of the fresh leaves.
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