What do you call it? Here in the U.S., the green leaves are called cilantro and the dry seeds are called coriander. The herb is Coriandrum sativum, an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is commonly used in the cuisines of China, Thailand, India, the Mediterranean basin, Europe and Mexico. Here it is an important ingredient in salsa and other Mexican dishes. All parts of the plants are used, including the leaves, stems, seeds, and roots. Some people, probably based on genetics, find the leaves to have a soapy taste and an offensive, perfumed smell. Others love it. The seeds have an attractive citrus aroma and are used in sausages and some Belgian-style beers.
I try growing cilantro every year. A maddening characteristic of it is its lack of desire to germinate where I plant it, yet it self-seeds wildly wherever I don’t want it, in the paths, in the beds, wherever an errant seed lands. It also to tends to bolt quickly to seed, even if I plant slow-bolt varieties. That is why I usually wind up buying cilantro at the farm stands when I want the leaves. But the seeds are not to be spurned. When harvested green, they still have a strong cilantro aroma in addition to a lemon, citrusy scent that the leaves do not have. You can use them in cooking (just smack them with the side of a knife to crush), and the seeds freeze well so you can save a little bit of summer.
Here is another use for the green seeds I learned from Willi Galloway’s book, Grow, Cook, Eat that will warm you up in winter. Put a handful of seed clusters in a quart canning jar and pour a fifth of vodka (no need to use Skye or Grey Goose here) in the jar and cover. Allow this to sit for a week while the vodka is infused. Pour the infused vodka back into the bottle, using a funnel lined with a coffee filter to strain out any sediment. You now have a fifth of coriander-infused vodka you can use to make vodka tonics or other drinks.
Or try my signature cocktail, which my daughter declared the best cocktail she has ever tasted.
Add to a cocktail shaker with ice:
- 2 parts Coriander-infused Vodka
- 1 part St-Germain
- 1 or 2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters
Shake or stir and stain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and enjoy while you pore over the seed catalogs in January.