Coriander: Spice Plant from the Mediterranean
Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? Attention is focused on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. The theme this year is “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” and Orinda Farmers’ Market offers some great options. Prepared crepes, tamales, pupusas, dumplings and soups are ready to enjoy with the option to shop for farm fresh ingredients to create your own dishes.
Coriander was one of the initial spice plants to reach America from its native Mediterranean region. It is one of only a few to be used both as a fresh herb and dried seed. It’s known for full-bodied flavors in addition to containing antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins and dietary fiber.
The flat, lacy, bright green leaves of the coriander plant (cilantro) are picked before the small, pinkish flowers form to become coriander seeds. At harvest, the ripe seeds have developed their distinctive coriander aroma and subtle flavors of citrus and parsley appreciated in sweet and savory dishes and as an essential ingredient in curry powder.
Cilantro is a love it or hate it type of herb. Some see cilantro as a soapy tasting herb to be left in the garden. These individuals have a variation in a group of odorant receptor genes that lets them perceive the soapy-flavored aldehydes in cilantro leaves. So it does happen!
But for the rest of us, let’s enjoy the fresh bunches of cilantro in everything from soups, sauces, salads, marinades, sausage and guacamole. Try making an herbal tea by adding 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds to 1 cup of water; boil for 2 to 3 minutes and let steep for 5 to 6 minutes.
Choose bunches of cilantro with an overall green color with no signs of yellowing, wilting or bruising. Fresh cilantro is highly perishable. Cover with a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days if necessary. Wash just before using. Extra cilantro may be frozen but loses its crispness and some flavor. Toss unthawed into soups and sauces and adjust the amount accordingly – up to twice the amount called for in the original recipe.
Look for Jeanne’s Broth at the Orinda market every Saturday. One of Vern Phan and son Vaughn’s favorites to offer is a bowl of Khao Soi filled with flat rice noodles, shredded chicken breast, broth, fermented soybean, red cabbage, bean sprouts and green onion topped with fresh cilantro. Delicious!
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. For more information, visit www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market hotline at 925.431.8361.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.