Fresh taste of cilantro makes wonderful salsa – new jersey herald – o goshi technique

A student of botany uses the term "herbaceous" for any seed-bearing plant that does not develop woody stems and dies down to the ground at the end of the season. A cook will immediately think of a flavorful and aromatic leaf or flower. A pharmacist may consider herbs to be any plant or plant part with medicinal properties. Home gardeners adopt Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs definition: "any plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities." This encompasses a wide variety of plants, including trees and shrubs. Consequently, their compendium includes listings for birch and hawthorn along with basil and bay leaf.

Does anyone still think of birch trees for treating rheumatism or making birch beer? For most of us, herbs are plants we grow for fragrance and flavor. Lavender, rosemary, parsley, basil, sage and thyme are among the most popular herbs grown American gardens. Cilantro is another favorite that loves the cool, rainy weather that has dominated our region lately.

Cilantro is a staple in many cuisines and has become so popular it now appears year-round in our supermarkets. Cultivated by Egyptians, Romans and Chinese for centuries, it is native to southeastern Europe. Conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and South America. Known also as coriander, we Americans call the fresh leaves and stems of the plant cilantro and its dry seeds, coriander. While it is used extensively from China and Morocco to North and South America and Europe, it continues to be an herb you either love or hate. Some people declare it tastes like a mouth full of soap bubbles, while others salivate with the first whiff of its aroma. Like several of my friends and family, I did not like it when I first tasted it, but it took just one perfectly prepared salsa for me to become hooked.

Cilantro forms large roots that don’t like to be disturbed, so it should be grown from seed. Sow a few seeds every couple of weeks since it will go to seed quickly, especially in hot weather. To harvest your own coriander seeds, cut the plants as the leaves and flowers begin to turn brown — before the seed pods open. Pat dry and place in a brown paper bag and hang in a dry airy space to finish drying completely. After one to three weeks, shake the bag to dislodge seeds from their pods. Remove the seeds and spread them out on a tray until they finish drying. Seed that hasn’t dried thoroughly will have a bitter taste.

Finely chop all the herbs, pepper and garlic. Alternatively, if you have a mini food processor (a blender won’t do the job) stuff all the herbs and garlic into the bowl. Add the oil and whiz it all up until everything is chopped fine. Stir in the lime juice and a pinch of salt, tasting as you go. Stop adding juice when you judge it to be "just right." If you’ve added all the juice and it tastes great but seems to be too gloppy, add a little water to thin it.

This all adds up to about 1/2 cup of salsa. Toss it into warm quinoa, along with any assortment of fruits or vegetables that you have on hand or that sound appealing: tomatoes, mango, finely diced celery and carrots, tiny peas — or chunks of leftover roast chicken. Toss this salsa over boiled, tiny potatoes while they are still hot for a wonderfully fresh take on potato salad.