The International Herb Association selects the Herb of the Year.  This professional trade association provides educational, service and development opportunities for those involved in herbal endeavors. 

The Herb of 2017
coriandrum sativum

Cilantro/Coriander is an annual plant that grows approximately 1 to 3 foot in height and 1 foot wide.  The plant will grow best in partial sun and well drained soil. The leaves can be harvested and used from early summer through midsummer.  In July the plant will flower with small, open clusters of tiny pinkish white blooms. The flowers that remain on the plant will go to seed and the coriander seeds will be ready to harvest from August to mid September. 

Cilantro/Coriander is of Mediterranean origin, one of the world’s oldest known herbs, cultivated for over 3,000 years. Cilantro is the herb consisting of the leaves and coriander is the spice made from grinding the seeds. The ancient Egyptians believed coriander could be used in the afterlife as a food for the departed. Coriander seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs.

The plant is used for its culinary, medicinal, aromatic and ornamental values. Widely used in Mexican, Asian and East Indian dishes. Coriander is an interesting culinary plant because its seeds and leaves have two distinctly different flavors. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and dried seeds are most commonly used in cooking. The roots of the plant are an important ingredient in Thai cooking where it is minced and used in salads, curries and relishes.

Cilantro leaves are best used fresh, drying the leaves will cause the cilantro to lose its flavor. The leaves should be added either raw or near the end of cooking in order to maintain their flavor and texture. Cilantro has a sharp “green” earthy flavor, with a tasty cross between sage, anise and citrus.  The leaves are great to use with tomatoes and peppers for salsa. Chopped leaves make a great addition to salads, scrambled into eggs, guacamole, hummus, pesto sauce, fish, and poultry dishes. The tender stems can be added to the water for flavoring couscous. Cilantro is not only packed with flavor, its green leaves are filled with antioxidants, vitamins, essential oils and fiber. Add extra flavor to smoothies with spinach, lime and cilantro. The use of cilantro is a great way to add flavor to a dish or beverage without adding extra calories, fat or sodium.

In order to have coriander you need to let some of the cilantro flowers go to seed. The beige colored seeds when harvested and dried have a warm sweet citrus like flavor. Coriander seeds can be used either whole or crushed. Coriander seeds are the same size as whole black pepper. This makes it very easy to grind the seeds in a standard pepper mill. The pepper mill should be dedicated to the use of coriander seeds only so as not to affect the flavor and strength of the ground coriander. Ground seeds can be used in curries, chutney, marmalades, pies, cakes, breads and cookies. Whole seeds can be added to soups, sauces and vegetable dishes.

Coriander seeds can be used aromatically by adding seeds to potpourris for fragrance and the essential oil has fixative properties. Fixatives help to reduce the evaporation rate of plant scents and assist in increasing the scent of potpourri.  The seeds can also be used for the aromatic orange scent in simmering spices.

The blooms and leaves of the cilantro plant can be dried for ornamental use.  To dry place the leaves and blooms between pages of an old book or other weighted and layered paper.  The dried leaves and blooms make beautiful accents when used on greeting cards, gift wrap and framed as botanical art.  Fresh cuttings make a lovely delicate addition to bouquets.

Medicinally the essential oil can be added to ointment for pain relief of joints and muscles. The leaves and seeds have digestive properties and stimulate appetite.

Cilantro/Coriander is an easy to grow and easy to harvest Herb that has a multitude of uses: medicinal, culinary, aromatic and ornamental.

A functional and multiuse Herb of The Year. Be sure to include it in your Garden in 2017!