Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a summer delight that offers much more than just great taste to a summer salad or to top off a soup, kitchari, or gazpacho.
Typically, cilantro is planted in the early spring or early fall for some fresh late-summer cilantro. You can continue to enjoy cilantro from your garden all summer as long as you are harvesting the tops regularly. Otherwise, the summer heat will force the plant to bolt with a long stalk and go to flower and seed. You may want to allow a handful of your cilantro plants to bolt and go to seed (coriander) through the summer, but keep the other plants edible by harvesting the new leaves all summer to get the best of both worlds. The more you harvest (clip) the leaves, the more leaves will grow.
The seeds of cilantro are called coriander and are only harvested in the summer. And, as nature loves to offer us foods to antidote the extreme of each season, coriander is no exception. While cilantro and coriander are both very cooling for the summer, according to Ayurveda, coriander is actually a refrigerant and a thirst quencher when made into a cool tea. I have recommended coriander tea for years for runners and tri-athletes who compete in the hot summer sun.
Coriander also offers a powerful boost to the digestive system in the summer months when digestion tends to be a bit weaker. Amazingly, nature dials down the digestive fire in the summer so as not to overheat the body internally. The idea is that the sun heats and cooks the foods while on the vine or in your garden, so that there is no need to fire up the digestive furnace in the summer – this, of course, applies if you are in the habit of eating seasonally-harvested foods.
Cilantro is a source of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, and calcium. (1) Coriander seeds have been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels and arterial and cardiovascular health, (2) and the bioactives of this plant contain antimicrobial, antioxidant and detoxifying qualities. (3-5)
Cilantro, which is sometimes called “Chinese parsley,” has been used for thousands of years as a natural blood purifier and detox agent. In one study, cilantro was found to help detox lead from the body. (6)
Cilantro contains a natural antibacterial compound that may fight Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly foodborne illness, according to a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. (7)
Make a Cooling, Summer Detox Tea
- Cilantro Tea: You can steep a tablespoon of cilantro leaves in a cup of hot water and flavor it with a pinch of raw honey if you like. Or make a larger quantity as a sun tea. Add some cilantro seeds to boost the cooling properties.
- Coriander Seed Tea: Steep 1 teaspoon of whole cilantro seeds in a cup of hot water and flavor it with either raw honey, stevia or orange peel. Coriander seed tea makes a great sun tea as well.
- Taste (rasa) – Sweet, bitter, astringent, pungent
- Energy (virya) – Cooling
- Doshic action – Balances vata, pitta and kapha. Strongly reduces pitta.
>>> For more information on on the digestive benefits of coriander seeds, see my article “Five Spices to Rock your Digestive World.”
Enjoy cilantro and coriander as a tasty, cooling summertime gift from nature! What are your favorite summertime recipes using cilantro and coriander?