Why? Because people are lazy, & whether they admit to it or not, it's kind of a power trip to leave items in different places, because it's someone else--usually an underpaid worker, not you--who has to take that item back to where it belongs.
So you can't be sure if that green bundle of tiny leaves is actually parsley or misplaced cilantro. You could ask the produce stocker, but they look frazzled & you can't be sure if you can trust their judgement--particularly if it's some scrawny teen, who's either shy, inexperienced, or unhelpful; or probably someone who couldn't care less, just itching for the next smoke break, watching the clock til it's time to punch out & party or just get the heck out of there.
You could try sniffing it. Cilantro has that pungent odor, more overpowering than parsley. But you can't trust your sense of smell. And it's cold & flu season, so gawd only knows what filthy, disgusting, germ ridden, runny nose, phlegmy people have coughed on or handled that green bunch of herbs with their dirty, unwashed, booger encrusted, body scratching, sweaty, grimy fingers. So for your health's sake, take precautions & sniff at your own risk.
And it's not just the grocery store. At a restaurant or cafe or at a meal or social gathering, you notice the green leaves in your soup, or mixed prominently into the salad, or sprinkled liberally on your fish taco. You wonder, is that parsley or cilantro? And more importantly, does it matter?
Yes, it matters! It matters a lot, especially if you hate cilantro, like me! I hate the soapy, disgusting flavor of cilantro! It ruins the dish for me. Once it gets into the food, the entire dish tastes like soap! Actual lather forming, slippery, bubbly, eye stinging, repulsive tasting soap! So hell yeah, it matters a lot trying to figure out if those tiny leaves are delicious parsley or poisonous cilantro!
As someone who despises the revolting taste of cilantro, you only have to buy a bundle by mistake just one time to learn a very important lesson. Actually, in my case, it was two very important lessons. Lesson one: Just because the grocery staffer works in produce is no guarantee that they'll know the difference between parsley & cilantro.
And it's misleading & confusing handling cilantro, especially when it's misnamed Chinese parsley--trust me, there ain't nothing Chinese nor parsley about cilantro! And in other places, it's called coriander. Whatever it's called, it always tastes disgusting to me.
Lesson two: There is a subtle but very significant difference between parsley & cilantro. And I'm going to share that subtle but definitive difference between parsley & cilantro. It's very simple. Blink & you'll miss it, so pay attention:
Parsley has pointy leaves. Look closely at the pointed tips.
Cilantro/Coriander has curvy leaves. See the rounded tips?
Just remember: Pointy Parsley leaves vs Curvy Cilantro leaves.
And here's where I confess to using a very powerful memory aid to remember the difference. Warning, I use explicit memory aids, because the more extreme the image, the better it sticks in my memory. So if you're sensitive to explicit/offensive imagery, then please, stop reading after this paragraph. Just remember that Parsley is pointy & Cilantro is curvy. P for Pointy Parsley, C for Curvy Cilantro.
Warning! Explicit Memory Aid follows:
To ensure that I never ever forget the difference between delicious parsley & vile cilantro, I just recall this explicit memory aid:
Parsley is Pointy. You know what else is pointy? A penis is pointy! So parsley is like a pointy penis. And penises are fun, like any seasoning, when used appropriately to enhance the pleasure of the experience.
Cilantro is curvy. Cilantro is the
And there you have it! The secret to telling the difference between parsley & cilantro. Now the next time you find yourself at the herb section of the grocery store, take a good look at those tiny green leaves bundles & you'll have no problems identifying parsley from cilantro. And as long as those leaves are intact & whole, you'll be able to spot whether that's parsley or cilantro topping your soup or sprinkled on your taco. Just look at them leaves & see if they belong to pointy parsley or curvy cilantro.
And if the leaves have been chopped up, then you're going to have to rely on three methods. They're less effective or more risky than spotting the whole leaves, but they do provide some measure of success.
One: If it's chopped up, then try to smell it first: Cilantro always smells more pungent than parsley. Two: Ask the cook! Did they use cilantro? A good cook always knows their ingredients. Finally: The surest yet most risky way to determine if that's chopped up parsley or cilantro spread on your meal, you're going to have to taste it.
If you're fine with both parsley & cilantro, then you should be okay. But if you hate the disgusting taste of cilantro, well, one small bite is the surest way to figure out if that taco is worth putting in your mouth & finishing it off with joy & satisfaction or just rinsing your mouth & walking away, feeling disgusted & hopefully much wiser.
And there you have it. The secret to identifying parsley & differentiating it from cilantro. It's all in the leaves. Parsley is Pointy, & Cilantro is Curvy. And I love parsley, but totally abhor cilantro! Remember the difference in the leaves between them & you'll never have a problem mixing up the two in the future.
I Hate Cilantro