Celebrating the Multicultural festivities of December, I thought I would pick an herb or spice which is referenced in the Bible (land of three of the Major Religions of the world) and used in many cuisines around the entire world, as a way of gathering together all the wealth of diversity around us - in true celebration.
Herb: Coriander (Cilantro seed) (Coriandrum sativum) Exodus 16:31 “The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.” Numbers 11:7 “Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.”
By: Catherine, The Herb Lady originally appearing in the East Valley Tribune October 25, 2003
Cilantro! Coriandrum sativum comes to us by way of the Eastern Mediterranean or Asia Minor. Cultivation dates back to ancient Egypt. This cool weather annual is also known as Coriander (for its edible seeds) and Chinese or Indian parsley. It is one of those herbs that has no gray areas--you either love it or hate it. Its taste is described as fresh, green, tangy and sometimes citrusy. The leaves, stems, flowers, seeds (called fruits) and even the roots (in Thai cooking) are edible. A member of the Apaiaceae family which contains parsley (for which it is sometimes substituted) and Dill, it has a long tap root, and two types of leaves--a large flat leaf resembling parsley and a lacy fern-like leaf evidenced before it starts to flower.
There are several other plants called Coriander because of the similar flavor and use of the leaves: Long Coriander (Eryngium foetidum) from the same family as Sea Holly, is a frost tender perennial thistle-looking exotic; Vietnamese Coriander aka Rau Ram (Polygonum odoratum - Persicaria Odorata, from the same family as the Chinese herb Fo Ti, is a trailing vine similar in appearance to Trandanscandia and is also a frost tender perennial; and the Chameleon Herb (Houttuynia cordata) a perennial known primarily in Asia.
Grow cilantro from whole coriander seed purchased in your grocer's spice section. Soak overnight, and plant every 2-4 weeks through December for a continuous crop into next April. The plant can be harvested whole or just cut what you need and have at least one more cutting before it goes to flower and seed.
A tasty and satisfying recipe using cilantro can be used for a snack or a whole meal. This variation on the Vietnamese fresh spring roll uses soft flour tortilla's instead of rice paper and features fresh herbs. This is a great "fast food" - low in fat and high in flavor.
plus other fresh herbs: mint, basil, parsley and/or Epazote (a mix gives the wrap more character)
Seafood cocktail sauce
Large soft flour tortillas**
Optional: slivered fresh ginger root
Keep herbs whole, removing only hard stems. Down the center of the tortilla layer herbs, shrimp and optional ginger, finishing off with a line of cocktail sauce, roll up and enjoy. Reserve some sauce for dipping.
*Use leftover chicken, beef or julienne tofu in place of shrimp.
** Large lettuce leaves can replace the tortillas if you want more "green."
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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