Herb and Spice of the Week – Coriander

August 28, 2014 at 5:46 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Coriander leaves

Coriander leaves

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft plant growing to 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 center of the umbel longer (5–6 mm or 0.20–0.24 in) than those pointing toward it (only 1–3 mm or 0.039–0.118 in long). The fruit is a globular, dry schizocarp 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in) in diameter. Although sometimes eaten alone, the seeds often are used as a spice or an added ingredient in other foods.

 
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is common in South Asian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Portuguese, Chinese, African, and Scandinavian cuisine.

 

 
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, Chinese parsley, or (in North America) cilantro.

It should not be confused with culantro (Eryngium foetidum L.), an apiaceae like coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) but in a different genus. Culantro has a distinctly different spiny appearance, a much more potent volatile leaf oil and a stronger smell.

The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. However, many people experience an unpleasant soapy taste or a rank smell and avoid the leaves. The flavors have also been compared to those of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). The different perceptions of the coriander leaves’ taste is likely genetic, with some people having no response to the aromatic chemical that most find pleasant, while simultaneously being sensitive to certain offending unsaturated aldehydes.

The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many Indian foods (such as chutneys and salads); in Chinese and Thai dishes; in Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish; and in salads in Russia and other CIS countries. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. 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 flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.

 

 

 

Dried coriander fruits

Dried coriander fruits

The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. In Indian cuisine they are called dhania.

The word coriander in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.

The variety C. s. vulgare has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in), while var. microcarpum fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm (0.059–0.118 in). Large-fruited types are grown mainly by tropical and subtropical countries, e.g. Morocco, India and Australia, and contain a low volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%). They are used extensively for grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade. Types with smaller fruit are produced in temperate regions and usually have a volatile oil content of around 0.4-1.8%, so are highly valued as a raw material for the preparation of essential oil.

It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavor, aroma and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavor quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala and Indian curries which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin, acting as a thickener.

 

 

 

Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. They are the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes: sambhar and rasam.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling vegetables. In Germany and South Africa, the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread (e.g. borodinsky bread), as an alternative to caraway.

The Zuni people have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chile and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad.

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

 

 

 

Coriander plants

Coriander plants

The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is different from the fresh stems and leaves. Leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate content of dietary minerals. Although seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavor than the leaves. They are used in a variety of Asian cuisines. They are commonly used in Thai dishes, including soups and curry pastes.
Coriander, like many spices, contains phytochemicals which may delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice.

Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have potential for antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this activity was found to be caused in part by chemicals acting as nonionic surfactants. The essential oil produced from Coriandrum sativum has been shown to exhibit possible antimicrobial effects.

Coriander can produce an allergic reaction in some people.

 

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