Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Coriander delivers from root to tip

How to cook with and preserve the fragrant cilantro leaves, the roots and stems, and the seeds

Basil leaves burst with flavour, but you want to nip the flowers in the bud before the plant gets too leggy. Dill has feathery foliage and versatile seeds, but you need to toss the tough stems. While we use specific parts of most herbs, coriander is edible from leaf to root, and provides delights at different stages of its growth.

One of the most widely used seasonings on the globe, coriander is a common ingredient in Mediterranean, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American cuisine. The fresh leaves and roots (cilantro) are an herb, while the seeds (coriander) are a spice. Even people who find the leaves soapy enjoy the aromatic and enticing seeds. Any plant this versatile deserves a spot in every kitchen garden.

Here are some ways to use coriander from the top down:

Eating the leaves
Cilantro leaves are best used fresh, either raw or added to a hot dish in the last few minutes of cooking. High temperatures and prolonged cooking destroys their flavour, as does drying.
If you have a bumper crop of cilantro leaves and don’t know what to do with them:
  • Blend them into a pesto
  • Chop them into a salad.
  • Toss them into a stir-fry.
  • Layer them into a sandwich with or without basil leaves.
  • Purée them into a dipping sauce with lime juice, garlic, dried coriander, oil and honey.
  • Grind them into a classic Thai paste.
  • Mix them into a salsa or chutney.

Still got too much? Make coriander ice cubes to be added to curries or soup.

Cooking with the roots and stems
Coriander roots smell like the leaves, but have a more pungent, slightly musky taste. While ignored by most cilantro-loving cuisines, the roots and stems are often used in Thai marinades, pastes and soups with many Thai curry pastes calling for the entire coriander plant—leaves, stems and roots.

When a recipe calls for cilantro roots, include about an inch of stem. Wash the roots well, using a soft brush to loosen any stubborn dirt. Crushing the roots with a knife before grinding them into a paste will release even more flavour. The roots freeze nicely. Just wash, pat dry and store in a lidded container in the freezer.

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