Herb of the Month: Cilantro

by in In Season, June 1, 2011
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Fajitas

Cilantro is fresh, flavorful and super-easy to grow.  Most folks either love it or hate it, but we fall in the former category here at Healthy Eats! Find out what’s to love about this polarizing herb.

Cilantro Basics
Cilantro is known for its bright citrus flavor. This culinary herb stems from the coriander plant and is often referred to as “Chinese parsley.” Though it does resemble parsley, you can easily tell the difference: Cilantro is lighter green in color and has softer leaves with rounded edges. Cilantro is easy to grow, but it does best in spring and early summer, as hot temperatures tend to make it bolt.

Nutrition Info
One-quarter cup of fresh cilantro leaves has only 1 calorie. This green herb is packed with folate as well as vitamins A, C and K. While one serving won’t amount to much, using this herb regularly will allow those small doses of nutrients to add up.

What to do with Cilantro
Cilantro has a natural affinity for flavorful and spicy Asian, Mexican, and Latin-inspired cuisines. It gives a punch to salsa, guacamole, rice dishes, pasta salads and lettuce mixes. Sprinkle freshly-chopped cilantro over grilled fish or pizza. Make cilantro-infused oil to jazz up salad dressings, drizzle over grilled chicken breast or serve atop bread. Get more mileage out of your bunch of cilantro by using both the leaves and stems — unlike many herbs, cilantro stems are tender and just as flavorful as the leaves.

Shopping and Storage Tip
: Choose evenly-colored leaves that aren’t wilted. Store a fresh bunch in the refrigerator with the stems down in a glass of water (changing water every day or so) or gently wrap in paper towel and place in resealable bag in the refrigerator drawer for up to a week.

Recipes to Try:

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (10)

  1. Obsessed with cilantro…I sprinkle it on whenever possible. It's such a great way to spice up boring old plain white rice too – just a little cilantro, a dash of lime juice and you're done! When I store it, I place the stems in a glass of water, but then I put a little plastic baggy over the leaves on top which keeps it fresher even longer

  2. Jocelyn says:

    I have found this works very well too. My cilantro will last up to a week when stored stems down in water with a baggy over the leaves.

    My favourite way of using cilantro especially late in the season is to make Chimichurri. Basically pesto (almost) but with cilantro. I use fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, garlic and a bit of chili pepper (to give it some punch) and puree it in a blender then store it in a jar in my fridge or freeze it if I need to keep it longer. Good on pretty much everything mentioned above.

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