Coriander (spice)

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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Apiales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Apiaceae
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Genus: Coriandrum
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Species: C. sativum
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Binomial name
Coriandrum sativum
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Type Species


Coriander (Coriandrum 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 plant growing to 50 cm [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 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 French coriandre through Latincoriandrum” in turn from GreekTemplate:Polytonic”.[1] John Chadwick notes the Mycenaean Greek form of the word, koriadnon "has a pattern curiously similar to the name of Minos' daughter Ariadne, and it is plain how this might be corrupted later to koriannon or koriandron."[2]



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, Indian, South Asian, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.

Leaves and stems

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). The leaves, and especially the stems, have a very different taste from the seeds, similar to parsley but "juicier" and with citrus-like overtones. Some people instead perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell. This is believed to be a result of an enzyme that changes the way they taste coriander leaves, a genetic trait, but has yet to be fully researched[citation needed].

The fresh leaves and stems are an essential ingredient in many Vietnamese foods, Asian chutneys, Mexican salsas and guacamole, and occasionally is used in sushi rolls. Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and many curries. As heat diminishes their flavour quickly, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish right before serving. (Though in some Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in huge amounts and cooked till they dissolve into sauce and their flavour mellows.[1])

Coriander leaves were formerly common in European cuisine but nearly disappeared before the modern period. Today Europeans usually eat the leaves and stems only in dishes that originated in foreign cuisines, except in Portugal, where it is still an essential ingredient in many traditional dishes.

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.

Dried coriander fruits
Coriander Seeds close-up


The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds or coriandi seeds. In some regions, the use of the word coriander in food preparation always refers to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant itself. The seeds 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.

If the spice is bought (or picked -- it can be grown in a home garden) whole in a non-dried form, it can be dried in the sun. Most commonly, it is bought as whole dried seeds, but can also be purchased in ground form. When grinding at home, 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 quickly in storage and are best only ground as needed. For optimum flavour, whole coriander seed should be used within six months, or stored for no more than a year in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight and heat.

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. It also acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are also eaten as a snack. It is also the main ingredient of the two south Indian gravies: sambhar and rasam.

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 roots

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


Coriander grows wild over a wide area of the Near East and southern Europe, which forced Zohary and Hopf to admit that "it is hard to define exactly where this plant is wild and where it only recently established itself."[3] 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.[4] The Bible mentions coriander in Exodus 16:31: "And the house of Israel began to call its name Manna: and it was white 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 flavour of its leaves.[5] 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 [6]. Coriander is thought to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans as a meat preserver.[citation needed]

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.

Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

Similar plants

Potential medical uses

Coriander 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.[7] Coriander seeds are also 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.[8] In holistic and some traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and for general digestive aid.[9][10]


  1. "Coriander", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1989. Oxford University Press.
  2. John Chadwick, The Mycenaean World (Cambridge: University Press, 1976), p. 119
  3. Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 206
  4. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication, p. 205
  5. Chadwick, Mycenaean World, p. 119
  6. Fragiska, M. (2005). Wild and Cultivated Vegetables, Herbs and Spices in Greek Antiquity. Environmental Archaeology 10 (1): 73-82
  7. Emamghoreishi M, Khasaki M, Aazam MF (2005). "Coriandrum sativum: evaluation of its anxiolytic effect in the elevated plus-maze". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 96 (3): 365-370. PMID 15619553. 
  8. Dawakhana, H (2007). "Coriander: Cure from the Kitchen". Retrieved on 2007-07-18.
  9. "Coriander". PDRHealth. Retrieved on 07-18-07.
  10. "Herbs for the Prairies:Coriander". Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association. Retrieved on 07-18-07.

External links


Template:Herbs & spices

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