Herb of the Week - Coriander (Cilantro) & How to Dry Herbs

Cilantro is the Spanish word for Coriander (Coriandrum sativum.) In other words, they are one in the same plant. Typically you'll find the leaves for sale under the name cilantro while the seeds will be for sale under the word coriander in the grocery store (or at least here in the Southwest). Like most herbs, all parts of the plant can be used, even the root! I love growing coriander in the garden for the leaves to put in salsa and other recipes and am starting to use the crushed seeds as well. When the weather warms, the plant bolts (flowers) which is wonderful for the bees and hosting beneficial insects that prey on aphids. If I'm lucky, I gather some of the seeds to plant the next season, but usually the birds help scatter them around and I end up with volunteer plants in unusual places when the weather cools down. IMG_0213

The medicinal properties of coriander are best received through the seeds and they include antispasmodic, appetizer, aromatic, carminative and stomachic. Remember from the previous post on dill that carminative means to aid in digestion. Seems to be a pattern with the culinary herbs, huh? Not just to add taste (appetizer, aromatic) but also to aid in digestion of the meal. The seeds can also be used externally like as a poultice in treatment of rhematism and painful joints.

Another interesting fact about coriander is to a small portion of the population, it actually tastes like soap. It is also used as a fragrance ingredient in some perfumes and cosmetics.

Now coriander seeds store well in a dry, airtight container in a cool, dark place. You can dry the leaves, but they loose their flavor quickly.

How to Dry Herbs for Storage

Although coriander leaves doesn't keep their flavor very well when dried, it can still be done. I do it because here in the Southwest, coriander is a cool season plant and tomatoes and peppers are warm weather plants. Hard to have them at the same time to make fresh salsa. These instructions can be used for any herbs.

Method 1: Hang to dry. This is just as it seems. You pick several stems of an herb and tie them together and hang upside down in a dry place out of direct sunlight. When they are dried, you can then remove the dried leaves and crush as desired and store in an airtight container in the dark. I've used this method for rosemary, lavender and sage.

Method 2: Lay out on a flat surface in one layer in a dry place out of direct sunlight. When they are dried, you can then remove the dried leaves and crush as desired and store in an airtight container in the dark. This is how I prefer to dry more dainty stemmed herbs like basil, parsley, thyme and cilantro.

Method 3: Use a dehydrator or oven on low heat. Spread herbs in one layer on dehydrator tray or cookie sheet in low heat oven. The lower the heat, the better to avoid damaging the nutritional values of the herb. When they are dried, you can then remove the dried leaves and crush as desired and store in an airtight container in the dark.

Some people may recommend drying in the microwave, however, I'm suspect of how microwaves affect food's viability, so I'd stay away from this method unless you are just drying stuff for decoration, not for medicinal value.

Timing varies for how oily and thick the leaves are and how hot and humid the area you are using to dry the herbs is. Just keep checking periodically for crunchiness.

With love, hugs and smiles,

Carolyn

 

References used:

Lust, John. The Herb Book. New York: Benedict Lane Publications, 1974.

Kowalchick, Claire & Hylton, William H. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, Inc., 1998

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriander