This tasty and nutritious herb is always in season in the Lowcountry.
Story By Bailey Gilliam
We’ve all had cilantro in one dish or another, but what exactly is it? There are many names out there, lending to the confusion. Technically speaking, cilantro is the tender leaves from the coriander plant. Other names for cilantro include Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, coriander or dhania. In the United States cilantro refers to the leaves, and coriander refers to the seeds. All parts of this plant are edible, making it extremely versatile, but people most commonly use its fresh leaves and dried seeds in cooking. Cilantro has been a part of global cuisine for a long time. It’s time you include it in your routine too.
Cilantro may add more than just spice to your life. It’s low in calories and is packed with an impressive array of nutrients. It also contains many plant-based compounds that have significant health-promoting properties. It’s a powerful antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can lower your cholesterol and is considered to be a digestive aid, helping to ease nausea. Cilantro is rich in several vitamins like A, C and K. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes, teeth and skin as well as cell growth and immune system strength. Vitamin C helps boost your immune system, keeps your skin healthy and is essential for tissue repair and wound healing. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and is important for bone health. Cilantro is rich in fiber and several minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese, which are all important to overall health.
Cilantro lime rice
This easy cilantro lime rice is said to be even better than Chipotle’s, but we’ll let you be the judge. It’s easy to make and pairs perfectly with Mexican or Asian food and is excellent in burritos.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, or other long-grain white rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of one lime
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems only)
Directions  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Add the raw rice and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cook, occasionally stirring, until the rice has started to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Add water, salt, and lime zest to the rice. Bring to a rolling boil, then cover and lower the heat to low to maintain a very low simmer. Cook undisturbed for 15 minutes (check your rice package instructions), then remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.  Transfer the rice to a serving bowl. Pour lime juice over the rice and toss with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
Types of cilantro
Leisure: Popular for its flavor and bolt-resistance; matures in 50 to 55 days
Longstanding: Various cultivars that tend to be tall and slow to bolt; matures in 60 to 90 days
Calypso: Very slow to bolt, maturing in 50 to 55 days but not going to seed until 120 to 150 days
Santo: Often sold as “standard” cilantro; good bolt-resistance; matures in 50 to 55 days
Cruiser: Upright habit and strong stems on uniform plants; matures in 50 to 55 days
Grow your own
Cilantro is an excellent addition to any herb garden. Not only is it a relatively easy plant to grow, but it boasts two cooking uses for the price of one. The name “cilantro” refers to the plant’s thin, green stems and flat, lacy leaves, which are best eaten fresh. Its other common name, coriander, refers to the seeds that are a common cooking spice, especially in Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.
Plant cilantro in cool weather either in early spring after the last frost or in the fall once temperatures have consistently cooled down to 50-80 degrees. Seeds should be spaced 1-2 inches apart in loose, fast-draining soil with an acidic pH for optimal growing conditions. It can handle either full sun or partial shade but tends to prefer some afternoon shade in warmer climates. Keep the soil moist as seeds germinate and seedlings develop. Roughly one inch of water per week is ideal for seedlings. More mature plants don’t require as much water, but they still like moist soil.
Try a container if you don’t have a suitable garden spot for cilantro. Its relatively small size makes it a great herb to grow in containers. A pot that’s at least 8 inches wide and deep is best for cilantro. Make sure it has drainage holes. An unglazed clay container is ideal because it will allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls.
You can begin to harvest leaves once the plants are around six inches tall, which typically occurs around three to four weeks after you first sow seeds. Harvest the leaves you need by pinching back portions of the upper stem, which promotes new growth and fuller plants. Aim not to take more than a third of the leaves at a time. To harvest seeds, allow the plant to flower. Leave the resulting seed heads on the plant to dry out. Then shake them into a paper bag to release the seeds, or snip the entire seed head, place it into a paper bag, put the bag in a dark, well-ventilated, cool place, and allow the seeds to finish drying in the bag for easier harvest.
This easy pad Thai recipe has rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, tofu, peanuts, scrambled eggs and fresh vegetables tossed together in a delicious homemade sauce. It’s packed with flavor and can be made in under 30 minutes.
Ingredients (pad Thai)
8 ounces flat rice noodles
3 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces uncooked shrimp, chicken or extra-firm tofu, cut into small pieces
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha, or more to taste
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (optional)
Directions  Cook noodles according to package instructions. Rinse under cold water.  Make the sauce by combining sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.  Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, chicken or tofu, garlic and bell pepper. (The shrimp will cook quickly, about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until pink. If using chicken, cook until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, flipping only once.) Push everything to the side of the pan. Add a little more oil and add the beaten eggs. Scramble the eggs, breaking them into small pieces with a spatula as they cook.  Add noodles, sauce, bean sprouts and peanuts to the pan (reserving some peanuts for topping at the end). Toss everything to combine.  Garnish the top with green onions, extra peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately, and store leftovers in the fridge. Enjoy within 2-3 days.
Let’s kick things off with a dressing that’s not just perfect for salads but on tacos, quesadillas, grilled sweet corn and a lot more. It’s a simple recipe made of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and, of course, cilantro. You’ll love how the cilantro and garlic give the dressing some zip.
1 huge bunch of fresh cilantro (2 cups packed)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, if needed
Directions  Blend everything up for about a minute until smooth. Add the water if you need more volume in the blender to make it run smoothly. Season to taste.