Coriander (Chinese Parsley, Cilantro)



Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae, and native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. The leaves are being referred to as coriander leaves, Chinese parsley and cilantro (in the America, from the Spanish for the plant). It should not be confused with Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) 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.

Coriander is a soft, hairless plant, growing to 50 cm tall, with variable shaped leaves. The leaves are broadly lobed at the base of the plant and slender and feathery higher on the flowery stems. The asymmetrical, white or pale pink flowers are borne in small umbels, with the petals pointing away from the umbels is longer (5-6 mm) than those pointing towards it (1-3 mm). the fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3-5 mm in diameter.

All part of coriander plant is edible, but fresh leaves and dried seeds are the parts commonly used in cooking. The leaves have a different taste from the seeds. The flavors have been compared to those of the stink bug, as similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). The fresh leaves are used as garnish, added into dishes, and used in salad or sauces. The leaves spoil quickly once remove from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen. Coriander contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food. Both the leaves and seeds contain antioxidants, but the leaves have stronger effect. Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis.

The dried fruits are commonly known as coriander seeds and have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, due to the compounds terpenes linalool and pinene that are found in the seeds. The seeds are easily available in whole or powdered forms. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance the flavor. Ground coriander loses its aroma and flavor quickly in storage, so is best ground fresh.

Coriander seeds is a spice and is used in garam masala and Indian curries, together with cumin, acting as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as snack. Coriander seeds are main ingredient in two south Indian dishes, sambhar and rasam.

Outside of Asia, coriander seeds is used for pickling vegetables, making sausages in Germany and South Africa. The seeds are also used in brewing certain styles of beers, particularly some Belgium wheat beers. They are sometimes used with orange peel to add a citrus character.

Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavor than the leaves, and are commonly used in Thai dishes, such as soups and curry pastes.

Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. It is also a traditional treatment for diabetes, as the extract had both insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity.

Coriander plantsCoriander plants
Author: H. Zell (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

Coriander flowersCoriander flowers
Author: H. Zell (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

Coriander rootsCoriander roots
Author: Malcolm Morley (public domain)

Coriander seedsCoriander seeds
Author: H. Zell (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

Coriander seeds, coriander powder, and crushed leavesCoriander seeds, coriander powder, and crushed leaves
Author: Henna (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic)

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