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Coriander seeds and Cilantro Leaves

Ammini's picture



Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) is an annual herb belonging to the carrot family. The name coriander comes from the Greek word koris that means bug. Coriander plant yields both the fresh green herb and the spice seed.

When ripe, the seeds have a distinctive sweet musty aroma that has been valued over the centuries in various world cuisines. Coriander seeds look like tiny beads with yellowish brown color and a distinctive fragrance and a pleasant and mildly pungent taste. Coriander seed is used in whole or ground forms. Green coriander (also called cilantro and Chinese parsley) is probably one of the most commonly-used flavorings in the world. The strong fragrance of coriander leaves is quite different from parsley’s, but the leaves are used in the same way as parsley in tropical cuisines of the world. Whenever possible, buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly, and coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle. Since it is highly perishable, fresh coriander should always be stored in the refrigerator.

In India, both coriander seeds and leaves are extensively used in curries and spice mixes. It is used in Middle Eastern, southern Asian, as well as Latin American cuisines. It is popular in Chinese cuisine. In Thailand even the root of the plant is used. Although it is popular in the rest of Asia, it is practically unknown in Japan. Use of coriander seeds is more widespread in Europe compared to coriander leaves, the one exception being Portuguese cuisine. Portuguese settlers learned to use it from native Africans. It is used to flavor liqueurs in Russia and Scandinavia, as well as being an important flavoring agent in gin production. Coriander and cilantro leaves are fairly recent arrivals to the American kitchen.

Although cilantro and coriander seeds are most often associated with the cuisines of Mexico and Asia, the herb originated in the southern reaches of the Mediterranean. Coriander has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back 3000 years. It was cultivated in ancient Egypt for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The ancient Hebrews originally used cilantro root as the bitter herb in the symbolic Passover meal. The Romans used coriander with cumin and vinegar as a preservative which they rubbed into meat. Ancient Greeks and Romans took it to Europe and the Arabs introduced it to India and China. Coriander seeds were used in southern Europe since classical times.

Coriander is a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of iron, magnesium, and manganese. It is considered good for the digestive system, reducing flatulence, stimulating the appetite and aiding the secretion of gastric juices. In certain parts of India it is traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In the United States, coriander has recently been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects.

Some quick and easy ways to incorporate this healthy spice to Western cuisines are - Add toasted and crushed coriander seeds to soups and broths, sauté spinach with fresh garlic and crushed coriander seeds and use coriander seeds in the poaching liquid when preparing fish.


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shantihhh's picture
Cilantro is in the Apiaceae (parsley family). Cilantro root is used in Thai curries. You pound the root with the other ingredients in a morton and pestle. It gives a wonder flavour. I don't know of any other cuisine that uses the root. There is also another relative called culantro. This herb is also known as sawtooth. It is popular in Southeast Asian cookery and also in the Caribbean. While it has a cilantro taste it is much stronger flavour. Culantro (Eryngium foetidum L., Apiaceae) is a biennial herb indigenous to continental Tropical America and the West Indies. Although widely used in dishes throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Far East, culantro is relatively unknown in the United States and many other parts of the world and is often mistaken and misnamed for its close relative cilantro or coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.). Some of its common names descriptive of the plant include: spiny or serrated coriander, shado beni and bhandhania (Trinidad and Tobago), chadron benee (Dominica), coulante (Haiti), recao (Puerto Rico), and fit weed (Guyana). In Asia, culantro is most popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore, where it is commonly used with or instead of cilantro for soups, noodle dishes, and curries. The Vietnamese use it to wrap other foods and as a salad herb. Shanti/Mary-Anne
Ammini's picture
Thanks Mary-Anne for sharing the information about the use of cilantro in south Asian countries and about Culantro. The Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family of plants is a large family with about 300 genera and more than 3,000 species. It includes carrot, caraway, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley, and parsnip and several others.
Hyde.Ray's picture
wow! you 2 are simply brilliant.
Coriander Seeds And Cilantro Leaves