THE ELIXIR – UPTOWN SOUL FOOD: CILANTRO

BY Eileen Z. Fuentes

Up to this point, The Elixir: Uptown SOUL (Seasonal, Organic, Unprocessed, Local) Food series has introduced its readers to the highly visible mangos and avocadoes. While these fruits are locally abundant they are not grown nearby. It is for this reason that I sought to highlight an item that will appease both the immigrant community due to its regular appearance in familiar dishes as well as those who are environmentally conscious and so look to foods that are sustainable.

The spicy and sensational cilantro is an amazing herb. It is also versatile as it grows annually despite the changing seasons and can easily be cultivated indoors right on your windowsill. Contrary to my previous belief, I learned that local is actually better than organic because of its overall effect on the planet. As a matter of fact, according to localvores.com, locally grown produce is always fresher and therefore more nutritionally complete. For New Yorkers, it would be almost impossible to do this year-round due to the harsh winter months and the limited produce options. I know the local vs. organic dispute is a hard pill to swallow but I urge you to take a look at this shocking 3-minute video. Like me, you may have to reconsider your previous notions about this controversial topic.

While most people have seen pieces of it floating around in their salsa, they may not know how beneficial it is to consume. There are countless reasons to add this valuable ingredient to your meal. The most notable is its natural cleansing properties. Cilantro has been effectively used to remove heavy metals and other toxic agents from the body. It is an exceptional digestive aid and relieves gas and diarrhea issues. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, a common property in diseases such as cancer and heart disease. This herb is a natural remedy for reducing cramping and easing mood swings associated with menstruation. It is a great source of iron, magnesium, vitamin A, phosphorus and helps to promote healthy liver function and lower blood sugar. It can act as an expectorant, boost the immune system and eases overall eye stressors such as conjunctivitis and macular degeneration. And finally, it is a natural antiseptic agent for skin disorders. The question might well be, what doesn’t cilantro do?

Its pungent taste has created two types of followers; those who love it and those who despise it…no middle ground here. As I did my research, I was surprised to come across a clique of haters who loathed this green goodness with so much passion that they dedicated a website, solely to its demise. Ihatecilantro.com is filled with funny stories, member’s description of its taste, haikus dedicated to cilantro, and more.  And recently the New York Times published an article on the genetic reason why this may be the case for some. I personally believe that adding cilantro to most dishes adds another layer of great flavor.  It can enhance steak, chicken, fish or vegetables. You can use it to prepare pesto, marinade, sauce, dip, dressing, herb butter, etc. For great recipes, check out finecooking.com or mariquita.com.

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