History of Cilantro
No one is quite sure where Cilantro originated, but it is thought by many to be from the Mediteranean region of Europe. No one is absolutely certain, but it appears that cilantro has been used for at least 5000 years. The seeds, also known as coriander, have even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Perhaps this was because the coriander seeds were thought by the ancient herbalists to be an aphrodesiac.
The ancient Israelites were also familiar with coriander. In the Old Testament Bible (Exodus 17:31) we may read: "The house of Israel called the name therof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." - This passage refers to the Manna which fed the wanderers for forty years.
Coriander is also mentioned in the "Arabian Nights" a book over 1000 years old. In the book it was part of a mixture that supposedly helped a childless man to have children.
The Chinese have used cilantro for centuries. As to how the plant reached the East from the West, we can only conjecture that it followed ancient trade routes. The spice routs between Asia and Europe were famous for taking spice from Asia to the Middle East and Europe. Aparently, this is a case of the reverse occuring.
The herb was one of the first (along with dandelions) to be brought to the Americas from Europe. Cilantro was grown in many places, including the Massachusettes Bay Colony by the mid-1600s. It was brought into Mexico by the conquistadors in the 1500s.
In the mid-1700s a liquor was made from the coriander seeds, but this experiment proved unsuccessful. Today, cilantro and coriander are widely used outside of Europe from the Southwest U.S. through Central and South America, on into India, China and Thailand.