Like politics and religion, cilantro elicits strong opinions. People love it or hate it. For some, it's an acquired taste, thus attracting its share of proselytizing converts, such as myself. Even the name of the plant can be controversial. In the U.S., the leaves are called cilantro, while the seeds are called coriander. In Europe (and Australia), the leaves are called coriander, while the seeds are also called coriander. To confuse matters further, cilantro leaves are also known as Chinese parsley.Ms Balslev acquired the taste of coriander and appears to love it. Read more, including recipes. Josh Kurz, writing for NPR in late 2008, on the other hand detests the herb.
Whatever your culinary or linguistic disposition, this is one herb the world apparently can't live without. Featured in the cuisines of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Asia, cilantro has a culinary history dating back millennia. Its seeds were found in 8,000-year-old caves in Israel. There are ancient Sanskrit and biblical references to coriander. Even King Tut claimed a piece of the cilantro action with seeds scattered in his tomb. Introduced to the Americas by Europeans in the 1600s, the coriander plant is a relative newcomer to this part of the world. It's been growing like the dickens ever since, making up for any lost epochal time while achieving a prominent place in American Southwestern, Mexican and Latin American cuisines.
The entire cilantro plant is edible, including its root. The seeds, known as coriander, are the dried ripe fruit of the plant, frequently used whole for pickling and spicing, or toasted and finely ground into the dried spice also known as coriander. Dried coriander seeds bear no resemblance in flavor to the fresh leaves. Fresh coriander leaves are delicate and lacy, imparting a unique soapy aroma that either attracts or repels, depending on which side of the cilantro fence you sit. Cilantro leaves are best served fresh and used as a final flourish to dishes, because their fragility does not lend well to the heat of cooking.
So, why is this ancient, worldly herb so polarizing? There are theories that nature plays a role: Some people may be genetically predisposed to cilantro intolerance. This can manifest itself in an intense aversion to the aroma and flavor of the leaves, and, in rare cases, a physical reaction... For the rest of us, nurture or environment may be a factor. Chances are that if you were raised in a culture where coriander is a kitchen staple, you are a cilantro lover. If you had little exposure, cilantro might take some getting used to.
Surely it is not that much different to parsley (flat leaf or curly) with a hint of aniseed.