I love love love Cilantro and I assumed everyone did.
I thought the 5th of May – Cinco de Mayo – would be a great day to proclaim it to the world! Sure it’s arelatively minor holiday in Mexico – celebrating a decisive victory in Mexico’s battle against the French in 1862 – but Americans seem to use it to drink and eat and salute Mexican culture. (Though not actual Mexicans immigrants? but that’s a whole different discussion…)
I’ll use it to commemorate the Queen of Flavors – the hierba de mi corazón – the taste that makes me think MEXICO (and very much Belize) – CILANTRO aka Coriander.
Since I moved to Belize, I can’t get enough Cilantro. It’s in almost everything here…soups, rice, stews, burritos, ceviches, sauces…everything. You can buy it in every shop – a nice bundle is generally about $1bzd.
I can’t get enough of the flavor. It’s herby, cool, clean, a bit citrusy. The way it brightens food…has no parallel. Salsa would be…nothing…a vegetable mash…without cilantro.
Sure…I’ve always associated it with Mexican food or Thai and Indian food, but why isn’t this ridiculously tasty herb used more in the US – or in European cooking at all? It’s all parsley (zzzzz), oregano or basil. Why aren’t we all eating cilantro every day?
So I decided to do some internet research on my little green buddy. I knew a few friends who didn’t enjoy it but my internet queries shocked me. Wait…WHAT?
Cilantro has some serious haters. In fact, I can’t think of any other foods that illicit this type of response. I mean…I hate black pepper (it tastes like dirt to me) but I’m not about to go get a TATTOO!
(Though I did just write an entire blog on how I hate Papaya – but no tattoo!)
Photo from the IHateCoriander Facebook page – which has over 290K followers!
Or wear a t-shirt proclaiming my hatred. Poor sad cilantro!
Tons of people hate cilantro. DESPISE IT! One site calls it “the herb of the devil”. There are actually quite a few anti-cilantro websites like IHateCoriander.com. (The British call the herb “coriander” – cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander)
Another confused person’s motto? “Cilantro: The most offensive food known to man”. Some sites even have “Cilantro Free Restaurant” directories. Personally? I feel bad for these guys. How can they be so committed to despising something SOOO delicious?
More research required…
What’s the origin of the world’s most delicious herb?
Cilantro or coriander is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southeast Asia. So it was Christopher Columbus and his voyages that introduced many products from the Americas to Europe including corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, potatoes, chocolate, tobacco, and peanuts. Maybe even cilantro was on the Nina or the Santa Maria. (What were Europeans eating before 1492?)
The Europeans did ship some important stuff over here including horses, grapes, chickens, CITRUS, cows, honey bees, apples, tea and coffee. And malaria and small pox. The exchange, the Columbian exchange, is SOOO interesting. Hard to imagine that we’ve only had access to these things for about 500 years.
Other stuff that I learned:
- Cilantro is thought to be one of the oldest herbs. Cilantro seeds (or coriander) were found in King Tut’s tomb.
Cilantro is said to have lots of medicinal properties. It supposedly helps to eliminate heavy metal toxins from the body, is good for stomach aches and stimulates circulation.
Cilantro was more widely introduced to the US as Mexican food has become much more popular over the last 40 to 50 years. Americans eat ALOT of salsa.
India is the largest producer and consumer of cilantro.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
Haters, you are not alone. Julia Child’s cited “arugula and cilantro” as the two foods she hates. (Two of my favorites!)
There may be a genetic reason (let’s call it a deficiency) that makes you think that cilantro tastes like soap or hand lotion. It’s not your fault that you can’t enjoy one of the earth’s great gifts, it’s your genes’ fault. According to Wikipedia, it’s up to 25% of humans. WHAT?!
But hardly my problem 🙂
I have 4 bunches in the fridge right now and I’m planning on making this sauce. This recipe, in general, is SOOO good but even if you just make the sauce…so good on meat and rice dishes…you’ll be one happy camper. Mojo Meatballs.
I’ll leave the silly t-shirts and Haters Clubs to the…well…the haters. And leave you with a few items for the discerning…those who love this fantastic herb.
For today, I celebrate cilantro.