Documents: Special Interest: Herbs:

10 Neat Things About Cilantro
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

February 23, 2014

1. Bedbug herb.

Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, derives its name from the Greek word "koris", meaning bedbug. It grows naturally in southern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia, including India.

2. Yuck! It tastes like soap.

Some say cilantro tastes like soap or like hand lotion, others that it tastes like bugs. Hard to say how they know, but someone must have tasted both bedbugs and soap back about 5,000 years ago when they named the herb, because there is a reason for these associations. Cilantro contains aldehydes, a bi-product of the soap-making process. Bedbugs also produce aldehydes to ward off attacks from other insects.


There is a whole website devoted to "supporting the fight against cilantro", which the group calls "the most offensive food known to man". A section of the site is dedicated to haikus dissing cilantro. One member of the group writes, "My food tastes like bugs, soaked in hand sanitizer. Cilantro, you foul weed!"

4. The world's healthiest food.

In spite of its detractors, cilantro leaves, or coriander as it is called in most parts of the world outside of North America, are stuffed full of really good things. Cilantro is very low in saturated fats and cholesterol. It is also a good source of thiamin and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. (Whew!)

5. And there's more - a lot more.

Cilantro has major anti-inflammatory properties. It lowers LDL levels, the bad cholesterol, and it is an antibacterial agent which apparently is capable of fighting off salmonella. It has been called the anti-diabetic plant because it lowers blood sugar and it was the treatment used in some countries before insulin was discovered. Modern studies with mice have shown that it stimulated their secretion of insulin.

6. Heavy metal herb.

Cilantro leaf has also been found to be capable of removing lead from mice. It contains compounds that have a chelation effect (the ability to bind metal ions and molecules to an organic substance). Many people eat cilantro to flush heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium from their systems.

7. Coriander seeds.

The fruit of cilantro produces a little round seed that has a slightly different chemistry from the leaf. The seed tastes lemony, rather than soapy. We call the seed coriander. Roasted, the seeds are eaten as a snack food called dhana dal in India. They are boiled in water to treat colds, used to flavour some beers and combined with orange peel to enhance its citrus flavour.

8. Sleepless in Iran.

Cilantro is the drug of choice to relieve insomnia in Iran. Moreover, a drink made from boiling coriander seeds provides quick relief for stomach pain.

9. Pickles and sausages.

Coriander seeds are used in South Africa and Germany for pickling and making sausages. The chopped leaves can enhance a sausage dish. Just mix the juice from half a lime, a half tablespoon of lime zest and a half tablespoon of honey with some freshly copped cilantro. Coat pork sausage and cook on the barbecue. Delicious!

10. Big Business.

The world's coriander seed production is highest in Russia, Morocco, India and Holland. We can grow the large seed types on the Canadian prairies, but the smaller types need a longer season to mature. You can grow the leaves in your garden. The word coriander is cilantro in Spanish. It was the Spanish who brought the herb to North America through Mexico, probably one of the only good things they imparted to the natives in the New World.

- Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc

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