Coriandrum sativum L.
* Species Plantarum 1:256. 1753
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 centimetres (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer (5–6 mm) than those pointing towards it (only 1–3 mm long). The fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3–5 mm diameter. In U.S. culinary usage, the fruits ("seeds") are generally referred to as coriander, the leaves as cilantro.
First attested in English late 14th century, the word coriander derives from the Old French "coriandre", which comes from Latin coriandrum, in turn from Greek κορίαννον (koriannon). The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-ri-ja-da-na (written in Linear B syllabic script, reconstructed as koriadnon), similar to the name of Minos' daughter Ariadne, and it is plain how this might later evolve to koriannon or koriandron.
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is common in Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Texan, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.
It should not be confused with Culantro (Eryngium foetidum L.) which is a close relative to coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) but has a distinctly different appearance, a much more potent volatile leaf oil and a stronger smell.
The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. Some perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell and avoid the leaves. The flavours have also been compared to those of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). Belief that aversion is genetically determined may arise from the known genetic variation in taste perception of the synthetic chemical phenylthiocarbamide; however, no specific link has been established between coriander and a bitter taste perception gene.
The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods (particularly chutneys), in Chinese dishes and in Mexican dishes, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and curries. As heat diminishes their flavor quickly[neutrality is disputed], coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
Fresh coriander leaves, known as кинза (kinza) in Russian (from Georgian ქინძი), are often used in salads in Russia and other CIS countries.
The variety vulgare or macrocarpum has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm while var. microcarpum fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm. Large fruited types are grown mainly by tropical and subtropical countries, e.g. Morocco, India and Australia and contain a low volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%). They are used extensively for grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade. Types with smaller fruit are produced in temperate regions and usually have a volatile oil content of around 0.4-1.8%, and are therefore highly valued as a raw material for the preparation of essential oil.
It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. Ground coriander seed loses flavor quickly in storage and is best ground fresh.
Coriander seed is a spice (Hindi name: धनिया dhania), in garam masala and Indian curries, which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin. It acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. It is the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes: sambhar (சாம்பார்) and rasam (இரசம்). Coriander seeds are boiled with water and drunk as indigenous medicine for colds.
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used for pickling vegetables, and making sausages in Germany and South Africa (see boerewors). In Russia and Central Europe coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread as an alternative to caraway. Coriander seeds are used in European cuisine today, though they were more important in former centuries.
Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are used with orange peel to add a citrus character.
Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavor than the leaves. They are used in a variety of Asian cuisines. They are commonly used in Thai dishes, including soups and curry pastes.
Coriander grows wild over a wide area of the Near East and southern Europe, prompting the comment, "It is hard to define exactly where this plant is wild and where it only recently established itself." Fifteen desiccated mericarps were found in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B level of the Nahal Hemel Cave in Israel, which may be the oldest archeological find of coriander. About half a litre of coriander mericarps were recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun, and because this plant does not grow wild in Egypt, Zohary and Hopf interpret this find as proof that coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. The Bible mentions coriander in Exodus 16:31: "And the house of Israel began to call its name Manna: and it was round like coriander seed, and its taste was like that of flat cakes made with honey."
Coriander seems to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B tablets recovered from Pylos refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacture of perfumes, and it appears that it was used in two forms: as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavor of its leaves. This appears to be confirmed by archaeological evidence from the same period: the large quantities of the species retrieved from an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagroi in Macedonia could point to cultivation of the species at that time.
Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.
These herbs are used where they grow in much the same way as coriander is used.
* Eryngium foetidum has a similar taste and is also known as culantro. Found in South America.
Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect.
Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this activity was found to be caused in part by these chemicals acting as nonionic surfactants.
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Experiments in mice support its use as an anxiolytic. Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid. In holistic and traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and as a digestive aid.
Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for diabetes. A study on mice found that coriander extract had both insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity.
Coriander seeds were found in a study on rats to have a significant hypolipidemic effect, resulting in lowering of levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein. This effect appeared to be caused by increasing synthesis of bile by the liver and increasing the breakdown of cholesterol into other compounds.
Coriander juice (mixed with turmeric powder or mint juice) is used as a treatment for acne, applied to the face in the manner of toner.
Coriander can produce an allergic reaction in some people.
1. ^ coriandrum, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus
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