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Coriandrum sativum

The word "coriander" is from the Greek word koris, which means "bug"; this name was probably given to the plant due to the somewhat offensive "buggy" smell the plant produces before the fruits ripen.

drawing of coriander plant and its parts

Coriander is an annual herb in the parsley and carrot family (Umbelliferae). It is a soft, hairless plant growing to about 3 feet. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The small white flowers are borne in small umbels, and each flower bears a single small, round fruit containing two seeds.

All parts of the coriander plant are edible, but the seeds and leaves are by far the most commonly used. The seeds have a pleasant odor when ripe and a sweet taste after being dried out, and can be used either whole or ground. In India, ground coriander seeds are a major ingredient in many curries and sauces. In other parts of its native region, coriander seeds are primarily used as a flavoring in sauces, pickles, sausages, soups, and stews, as well as gin, vermouth, and other liqueurs.

coriander seeds and cilantro
coriander seeds and cilantro

Fresh coriander leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian, Chinese, and Latin American dishes. As heat diminishes their flavor, 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 flavour diminishes. In America, the word cilantro (the Spanish word for coriander) is usually applied to the leaves of the coriander plant.

As is the case with most herbs, coriander has a long history of use as a natural medicine. It was a traditional treatment for diabetes in Europe, is still "prescribed" as an anti-inflammatory agent in India, and is currently being studied in the United States for its potential cholesterol-lowering effects. Some experiments have also shown that coriander seed oil may have antibacterial properties, especially against the bacteria that cause salmonella.

Although coriander is not very high in nutrients, it is a very good source of dietary fiber and, to a lesser degree, calcium.

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The Robinson Library >> Vegetables

This page was last updated on 09/29/2018.