Coriander/Cilantro

Coriandrum sativum

The Carrot Family (Umbilliferae): Plants of the Airy Element

Symbolising: Love, Well-Being and Intelligence

Dancing Coriander

In the United States the fresh plant is called cilantro and the tiny dried fruit is called coriander. In many other parts of the world both plant and seed are called coriander.

Random Tidbits (not necessarily factual)

  • One of the longest recorded histories of all the spices-one of the medicinal plants mentioned in the Medical Papyrus of Thebes (written in 1552 BC)
  • According to Pliny: “the best (Coriander) came from Egypt,”and from thence no doubt the Israelites gained their knowledge of its properties.
  • When the Children of Israel were nourished by manna in the wilderness they claimed it was…”as coriander seed.” And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans and made cakes of it ; and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.”
  • Coriander is an ingredient in absinthe
  • Used to be made into a coriander ale as the volatile oils are extracted more readily by alcohol than water.
  • In 17th century Paris-it was the principal ingredient in Eau de Carnes a concoction used as liqueur or a cologne.
  • The Africans are said to have called this herb by a similar name goid, which Gesenius derives from a verb gadad, signifying ‘to cut,’ in allusion to the furrowed appearance of the fruit.
  • Originally in the northern countries of Europe, the chief consumption of coriander seed was in flavoring certain alcoholic liquors (gin). For which purpose it was largely grown in Essex.
  • Veterinary surgeons employ it as a drug for cattle and horses.
  • The Chinese believed the seeds had the power of conferring immortality.
  • Turner says (1551): “Coriandre layd to wyth breade or barly mele is good for Saynt Antonyes fyre”
  • Fruits and leaves posses totally different flavor and cannot be used as substitute for each other.
  • It’s name (Greek koris) means bug and it has been used planted around gardens to repel bugs (it can also be made into a spray for bug repellent).
  • Re-establishes harmony between the functions of blood and nerves and therefore cheers up and satisfies heart and mind.
  • Was grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • If used too freely the seeds become narcotic.
  • The Hungarians called it cig┬ínypetrezselyem “gypsies’ parsley”

Medicinal Action and Uses

  • Seeds/fruits: anti-diabetic (stimulates insulin secretion), anti-inflammatory, carminative, aromatic, mucilaginous, anti-bacterial, diuretic.
  • Reduces the amount of damaged fats in cell membranes. Relaxes nerves and muscles. Improves circulation and blood pressure. Strengthens bones.
  • It is a help to the digestion, particularly of carbohydrates. They used to be used a lot in breads and cakes.
  • Coriander water was formerly much esteemed as a carminative for windy colic.

Main constituents

  • Volitile oils: dodecenal, carvone, geraniol limonene, borneol, camphor, elemol and linalool (60%) and terpenes (similar to thujone which is a constituent in artemisia and yarrow)(20%).
  • Flavonoids: quercitin, kaempferol, chamnetin, epigenin
  • Dodecanal is two times as effective as the commonly used drug (gentamicin) in killing salmonella and is a potent anti-biotic. It is found in equal amounts in both the fruit and the plant.
  • In toasted coriander fruits, pyrazines are formed as the main flavour compounds.
  • Similar compounds occur in a few other spices and herbs which share coriander’s flavour: Examples include long coriander, Vietnamese coriander and the Japanese chemotype of chameleon plant.


Mishka Through the Coriander

Culinary

  • Coriander is an essential part of spice mixes around the world, such as masala, baharat and berebere.
  • The seeds should be freshly roasted or fried before use or grinding. This enhances the flavor exponentially.
  • Confectioners make little, round pink and white comfits for children or to help with after dinner digestion around the fruit.
  • The Thai’s use the whole plant, including the roots which they feel has the most flavor, in their green curry paste.
  • The Yemeni make a spicy paste called zhoug which contains coriander leaves which they use as a relish or bread dip.
  • The Vietnamese love to use fresh herbs and coriander is one of their favorites.
  • It is a good flavor combination when used in conjunction with fenugreek.
  • The fresh coriander leaves are often used raw. But they can also be long-cooked till they dissolve and their flavor mellows. An example is the Iranian herb sauce ghorme.

Coriander Links

A Modern Herbal
Wikipedia
Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages
A Pinch of Coriander
Medical Spice Exhibit
Transport Information Service
Coriander in Many Languages
Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association
Floridata.com
Herbs by Linda Gilbert
EurekAlert

Books

Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers -Stephen Harrod Buhner (1998)
Herbs In Nutrition Maria Geuter (1978)
On Food and Cooking– Harold McGee
The Spice Cookbook-Avanelle Day and Lillie Stucky (1964)

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