Coriander and Cilantro: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 10.03 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Coriander, also known as cilantro, is a zesty plant that’s great when added to Asian, Mexican or Middle-Eastern cooking. It’s citrus-like and nutty flavour pairs well with spicy foods and adds a touch of freshness when used as a garnish. Coriander is rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids and Vitamins A, C, E, K and B6. As well as a very good source of dietary fiber and minerals.
The ideal sign for when to pick coriander is when the stalks are around 10-13 centimetres long (approx 4-6 inches) and the leaves are a bright green colour. To harvest simply use a pair of scissors or a sharp cutting tool to slice off the required amount of leaves. You can harvest as many leaves as you want and the plant will always grow back. To ensure an ongoing coriander harvest try growing two or three plants to make sure that you always have a supply ready on rotation. You can also harvest the entire plant at once and use the roots, stems and leaves in your cooking.
It’s wise to grow your coriander indoors or away from bright, direct sunlight as this will help stop your plant from bolting. Keep an eye out for flower buds and cut them off as soon as possible. If your plant bolts it will start blooming and grow tall and spindly. If this happens, it will be no good for harvesting. Some varieties that are slow to bolt are “Long Standing”, “Leisure” and “Costa Rica” – consider planting these.
Look out for leaves that are small, unblemished and possess that bright green colour. Avoid leaves that are yellowing, brown or wilted – these are indications that the coriander is no longer good to eat and will be lacking nutrients and flavour.
When selecting coriander remember that the roots and stems possess the strongest taste and are best used chopped or crushed in your cooking – this is ideal for marinades and sauces. The leaves are milder in flavour and work better added towards the end of the cooking process as a topping or garnish.
If you have a coriander plant try and use it as soon as possible after you harvest, this will keep it fresh and flavoursome. Coriander won’t last long at room temperature so if you have to keep it for a few days you can either place it in a jug of water (just like a vase full of flowers) – this will keep the stems and leaves fresh and green for up to a week. Otherwise you can try refrigerating the coriander. When placed in a plastic container and refrigerated, coriander will last up to 10 days. If you have excess coriander that you’re not going to use in the next week or so, your best bet is to freeze it. You can either separate it into plastic freezer bags or freeze it in an ice cube tray along with water – this will create useable chunks of frozen coriander that you can add straight to your cooking. Frozen coriander will last up to 12 months.
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