Case in point numero uno: my quest for CILANTRO
A favorite of mine, i came into Nicaragua confident that cilantro was as spanishy as a word can get, an herb requisite in mexican cuisine, certainly an EASY FIND throughout all Latin America! Imagine my dismay when i scoured the market, inquiring constantly cilantro? Hay cilantro? Busco cilantro? and the ladies kept showing me this plant:
obviously NOT cilantro, to which i shook my head and kept searching, oblivious to the identical cilantro scent of Eryngium foetidum, commonly known as culantro (with a hard c, like a k) or Puerto Rican coriander. the above plant grows abundantly in our backyard and has become essential in all my soups, sauces, and salads.
Happily, I made the connection between mentha and mint on my own. despite the lack of any apparent physical similarity, the nose knows While i'm content using mentha in my mojitos, we all know this woody plant with rounded leaves is not a member of the authentic square-stem Mint Family. so what is it?
They handed me this one on a plate: Oregano
My garden boasts two basil varieties--again, smelling is believing.
The purplish leaves are tiny but pungent, and somehow i got the idea that this one is of Thai basil descent, but i haven't made an official identification yet. It does provide a fantastic flavor in combination with coconut milk, garlic, hot chiles, and one final herbal wonder in mi jardin:
Nothing beats the zing of lemongrass in a Thai coconut soup! Not to mention its presence as a grassy bed end plant. Stalks are always available and will propagate readily.