Cilantro Wars

Cilantro wars
Cilantro is key to the flavors of this Mexican dish

The Cilantro Wars – Lovers vs Haters

In the realm of culinary delights, there exists an unassuming herb that has sparked fierce debates and divided palates like no other – cilantro. While many embrace its vibrant flavor and use it generously in their dishes, many despise its taste, often equating it to soap or even describing it as a culinary abomination. This ongoing conflict has come to be known as the “Cilantro Wars,” pitting the cilantro enthusiasts against the cilantro haters.

Among our close family members and friends, we have one cilantro hater. As much as I try to disguise cilantro’s presence in the foods I prepare, this man knows it is there. He can detect it like a drug-sniffing dog at a border crossing. One can surmise this is the case when entertaining a cilantro-hating guest.

Cilantro and wine – the perfect match

I find that the cilantro herb enhances the characteristics and flavors of red wine. Try this experiment. Take a sip of red wine and note the taste of the wine and the aftertaste. Now, take a small cilantro leaf and chew. Next, take a second sip of the wine and compare the taste difference in the wine. For me, cilantro enhances the wine immensely. My top choice of wine to pair with dishes containing cilantro is Zinfandel.

Cilantro dishes

Guacamole recipe and cilantro
Guacamole at its best – cilantro adds the finishing touch

Can you grow cilantro in the herb garden – maybe

Every year I vow to grow cilantro from Spring to the Fall months. I rate my cilantro-growing skills at a C-. You can buy cilantro seeds or seedlings at a nursery. I have tried both. Plant the seeds or seedlings in an area of partial sun. I plant many in a large tub. Once they reach about 5 or 6 inches, it’s time to harvest them. Once cilantro bolts (flowers), the cilantro is done. Successful cilantro growers constantly sow more seeds each week (succession). That’s dedication, but the results are having cilantro whenever you need it fresh from the garden.

Young cilantro - harvest before it bolts
Young cilantro – harvest before it bolts

There is nothing like fresh cilantro from the garden. Unlike parsley, cilantro leaves and stems can be put in dishes. Chop the entire cilantro plant and enjoy. A word of caution: parsley and cilantro look almost the same in the produce market. Make sure you check the labeling. I have mistakenly purchased parsley instead of cilantro on more than one occasion.

cilantro stems can be chopped along with the leaves - not parsley
The cilantro stems can be chopped along with the leaves – not parsley

Caring for the Cilantro Hater

According to 23 and Me, 13% of the population will find the taste of cilantro offensive, as a soapy taste. That means it is excellent odds that everyone will love the taste of cilantro-based dishes when entertaining. But if you do have a cilantro hater, you can do something of a caring act. You can warn the person, as in “eat at your own risk.” Or, it might be possible when making the dish to scoop out a small amount of the mix before adding the cilantro. For example, I make guacamole in a large bowl and, when I am done mixing the ingredients, except for the cilantro, I scoop out enough for my cilantro-hating friend to enjoy. He is delighted and thankful for the thoughtfulness.

It must be difficult to be one of the few people who are cilantro haters!