Spices and herbs have tremendous healing power, and our bodies already know this. That’s why after a tough day at work I yearn for a cup of hot mint and ginger tea. Healing is also the reason I spoon turmeric powder into my stew at that first sign of frost on the roof. It’s also the reason I often reach for cilantro.
Certain spices and herbs not only add flavour to our meals but also positively influence our family’s health. Real food, big flavour, and easy – that’s why you’re reading this, aren’t you?
Growing up in India I took herbs and spices for granted, especially cilantro or coriander (in Hindi – dhania). Whatever you call this green leafy herb, you can bet it can be found in every bowl of curry, daal and sabzi across India, and not just because it makes the plate look pretty. People often take coriander for granted and treat it like useless garnish. It’s only recently I realised what a nutritional bombshell this humble herb is.
What is Cilantro (Coriander)?
A sweet-smelling herb, Cilantro often grows close to the ground. That’s why it needs to be washed really well before use. The seeds and leaves are used widely in Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. The stems add their own fresh mild flavour.
Initially green and brown when ripe, the seeds are dried and ground into a powder for use. Every time I go back home to India my mom grinds up a batch so I can store it for a few months in Canada.
Health Benefits of Cilantro
This herb is known for its medicinal properties and is rich in Potassium, Iron, Vitamin A, K and C, Folic Acid, Magnesium and Calcium. With kids around, and schools being the germ cesspool that they are, I use Coriander often especially during the flu season.
- The herb strengthens the stomach, helps with diarrhea and promotes overall healthy digestion.
- It helps in removing phlegm from the lungs.
- Coriander seeds help in cooling the body off in times of fever.
- Studies have shown that coriander leaves and seeds contain 30% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C – great as an immunity booster.
- Regular intake of coriander also protects us from a number of ailments due to its bacteria-fighting abilities.
Cilantro has been known have a positive impact on Alzheimers and has been successful in managing the sugar level in diabetes patients. It reduces the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases the amount of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood. Believe me, this humble herb is amazing!
I love using coriander in my cooking and not just in Indian-inspired dishes. The leaves, stem and seeds all add a different flavour dimension. The leaves add a lovely colour and freshness to the dish. You can use them either earlier in the cooking process or as a garnish. They do lose their flavour rather quickly so don’t cook them too much. If you are making something that will not benefit from the green colour (Thai red curry perhaps) and you are looking to punch up the coriander-y flavour use the stems, finely chopped. Add them earlier in the cooking stage. The stems are especially useful if someone at your table dislikes the flavour of coriander leaves – yes, it’s been known to happen- my youngest is one of those people.
Fun Fact: Cilantro has been known to taste soapy to certain palates.
That leaves the seeds. Roasted coriander seeds add in a smokiness with none of the heat that Indian cuisine is known for. Ground to a powder they can be stored for months in a cool, dry place.
Cooking with Cilantro
Curries, soups, stews, salads, dressings and even marinades benefit from a little bit of cilantro. Here are some of my favourite recipes using this herb.
Once you have kids in the house you learn to share – your emotions, yes but also their germs. When one child is sick you know it’s going to run through everyone in your household. That’s when you need natural remedies that help give our body’s immunity time to kick in. Sometimes all it takes is opening the pantry and reaching for the right spices and herbs.