For the love of  Cilantro 

         Cilantro leaves

Cilantro may bear a resemblance to flat leaf parsley, but it is unlikely that one can be confused with the other in terms of taste. This wonderful herb is also known as Coriander, Chinese parsley, or Mexican parsley. Cilantro packs a punch in the flavor department, and adds an unmistakable taste to Mexican staples such as Pico de Gallo and Guacamole, Thai noodle soups, Vietnamese spring rolls, Indian curries, as well as Moroccan stews.

Cilantro is known and used in many countries around the world and undoubtedly adds a distinct flavor. This tender leaf, is best added to the dish at the end of the preparation. The flavor is lost in the cooking process if added too early. The best way to use the leaves is to chop them and sprinkle over the dish just before serving. The stems may also be used and are very flavorful.

Coriander seeds are also used in many cuisines. The dried seeds have a very different flavor from the leaves. The toasted seeds are ground and used in the preparation of Garam masala, a popular Indian spice blend. There is archeological evidence that cilantro has existed for thousands of years and used in ancient cultures in the Middle East region. It is rich in Vitamin A and has been thought to be good for skin health and well being.

In Guyana and Trinidad as well as some Latin American countries, there is a similar herb called Culantro or shado beni . The appearance is completely different, but the flavor profile is the same as cilantro. It grows wild like grass on lawns and in gardens and is hardy. The leaves are about 3″ in length with a slightly spiny edge. It can be used in exactly the same recipes as cilantro but is more pungent. Culantro is used to make sofrito which is the basis of Latin American cuisine.

Culantro or shado beni



Cilantro does not grow in Haiti. I have tried unsuccessfuly to grow the coriander seeds in garden pots. They have sprouted, but within a week, they always die.I absolutely love this herb, but it I realize that trying to grow this is almost futile. I have spoken to people I know who have nurseries and they say that they have had little or no success. Cilantro requires constant humidity and warmth but not high heat. I have to resort to drying leaves whenever I can find it for use at a later time. The dried leaves are a poor substitute for the fresh green leaves. Dried cilantro lacks the intensity and brightness for which the fresh herb is so well known. 

I have just watched a video on growing cilantro successfully and have bought some new seed packets on this trip. Hopefully I will have a beautiful vibrant plant soon to add to my herb garden. Fingers crossed!!


GUACAMOLE 

INGREDIENTS

2 ripe avocados 

1 large key lime or 2 small limes, juiced

1/4 cup purple onion, finely diced

1 Roma tomato, deseeded and chopped into small pieces

1 clove garlic chopped

1 tbsp chopped jalapeño, or to your taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp cumin

METHOD

Scoop the avocados out and place in a medium bowl. With a large spoon or masher, crush the avocados.

Depending on the texture you prefer, you can crush until smooth, or just mush but leave chunks.

Squeeze the lime juice and put 1 tsp lime juice over the chopped onions. Reserve the remainder for avocados.

Add chopped onions, tomatoes, chopped jalapeño peppers and garlic to the avocados. Add remaining lime juice.

Sprinkle cumin over guacamole mix and stir to incorporate.

Chop cilantro or Culantro into thin shreds in fold into guacamole. 

Serve with corn chips or with quesadillas, fajitas, chile or any way you prefer.

Guacamole, chile con carne, pick de gallo and corn chips 

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