Cilantro, The Tenderest Of Herbs

I love cilantro (fresh coriander)! It is one of my favorite fresh tender herbs, but I know people who can’t stand the smell let alone the taste. I guess it’s another of those love it or hate it foods.

I try to grow my own cilantro every chance I get, but I have found that it grows best in cool or even cold weather and doesn’t do well in summer. I find it necessary to purchase it much of the year.

When I shop for cilantro in the market I look for long stems with fresh dark green leaves. I hate when all I can find are little bunches of tiny sprigs with a leaf or two on them that have obviously been salvaged from bigger bunches past their prime. The entire plant is edible and I like to use both stems and leaves.

In the U.S. every produce item has a Produce Lookup Code that is universal to every supermarket nationwide. The PLU# for cilantro is #4889. When that number is entered into the cash register the customer is charged the current price for a bunch of cilantro. The PLU# is typically imprinted on a twist tie or elastic band that binds the bunch together, but an experienced checkout clerk has these numbers memorized.

A pet peeve of mine is when I carefully pick out the best looking bunch of cilantro, carefully put it in one of the plastic produce bags provided, take it to the checkout counter and the checkout clerk mangles it trying to find the PLU code on the twist tie and read it through the plastic bag which is often tinted green and difficult to see through..

Just as soon as I see that the cashier is unfamiliar with the PLU# and is manhandling my tender herbs into mush I blurt out, “4889!” loud enough for the deaf customer in aisle 3 to hear. I have thusly many times halted the abuse of my precious cilantro, but there is much more to getting it home safely in pristine condition.

When I put my groceries on the conveyer belt at the checkout counter I consciously load the heavy durable stuff first, cold stuff together and, most importantly, fragile stuff like cilantro last. That should ensure that the cilantro will be placed in a bag on top of other groceries. I said should. I have actually seen the clerk, instead of taking my items in the order I have placed them on the belt, reach past several items to ring up the bunch of cilantro, put them in the bottom of a bag and drop a few cans of beans on top.

Even when my groceries are properly bagged I’ve learned to do some rearranging when I load them into the car. The checkout clerk may have carefully placed my precious bunch of cilantro in the bag on top of a cantaloupe but by the time I get home the cantaloupe will inevitably be on top of the cilantro crushing it to death. Yes, I know, it is counterintuitive. The heavy stuff should stay at the bottom and the lighter stuff should stay on top. That is only true on physics exams. This is real life.

A less than desirable bunch of cilantro
A less than desirable bunch of cilantro


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