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Cilantro

Coriander (Coriandrum
Cilantro Herb
sativum), also commonly called cilantro, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae.

Coriander is native to southwestern Asia west to north Africa. It is a soft, hairless, foetid plant growing to 50 cm 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 centre of the umbel longer (5-6 mm) than those pointing to the middle of the umbel (only 1-3 mm long). The fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3-5 mm diameter.

The name coriander derives from Latin coriandrum, which was first noted by Pliny. The Latin word derives in turn from Greek corys, a bedbug, plus -ander, "resembling", and refers to the supposed similarity of the scent of the crushed leaves to the distinctive odour of bedbugs (largely forgotten in this age of insecticides).

Uses
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, South Asian, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.

Leaves
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, cilantro (in the United States, from the Spanish name for the plant), dhania (in the Indian subcontinent, and increasingly, in Britain), Chinese parsley or Mexican parsley. The leaves have a very different taste from the seeds, similar to parsley but "juicier" and with citrus-like notes. Some people instead perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell. This is believed to be a genetic trait, but has yet to be fully researched.

The fresh leaves are an essential ingredient in many Vietnamese foods, Asian chutneys and Mexican salsas and guacamole. Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and many curries, but should never themselves be cooked as heat destroys their delicate flavour quickly.

Coriander leaves were formerly common in European cuisine but nearly disappeared before the modern period. Today Europeans usually eat coriander leaves only in dishes that originated from foreign cuisines.

The fresh coriander herb is best stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers, after chopping off the roots. The leaves do not keep well and should be eaten quickly, as they lose their aroma when dried or frozen.

Fruit

The dry fruit are known as coriander seeds or simply as coriander. They have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to the presence of the terpenes linalool and pinene. It is also described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. They are usually dried but can be eaten green. Ground coriander is a major ingredient in curry powder, certain Belgian-style beers and other aromatic dishes.

If the spice is bought whole in a non-dried form, it can be dried in the sun. Most commonly, it is bought as whole dried seeds, but can be bought in ground form. Store coriander seed in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight and heat. For maximum flavour use within 6 months and keep for no more than 1 year. It can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly to enhance the aroma before grinding it in an electric grinder or with a mortar and pestle; ground coriander seeds lose their flavour
Cilantro Herb
quickly in storage and are best only ground as needed.

Coriander seed is a key spice (Hindi name: धनिया dhania) in garam masala and Indian curries, which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is an important spice for 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. Apart from the uses just noted, coriander seeds are rarely used in European cuisine today, though they were more important in former centuries.

Coriander seeds are also used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are typically used in conjunction with orange peel to add a citrus character to these styles of beer.

Coriander seed is also used in Ethiopian and Arabic cooking.

Roots
Coriander roots are used in a variety of oriental cuisine. They are commonly used in Thai dishes.

medicinal uses
Cilantro has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine. Experiments in mice support its use as an anxiolytic.

Cilantro essential oil has been demonstrated to exhibit antibacterial action against E. Coli.

History
It is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area, and in southwest Europe. Some believe its use began as far back as 5,000 BC, and there is evidence of its use by the Egyptians. In the Bible, Exodus, chapter 16, verse 31, it says "And the house of Israel called the name there of Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey". Coriander was brought to the United States of America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

Coriander seed and leaf was very widely used in medieval European cuisine, due to its ability to make spoiled meats palatable by "masking" rotten flavours. Even today, coriander seed is an important ingredient in many sausage products.



Other useful herb information: Crataegus | Amla | Bacopa | Glucomannan | Citrimax | Catuaba | Resveratrol

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