Everything You Ever Need To Know About Coriander 🌱 (Drew's Digest #09)
Where does coriander from?
Coriander is thought to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean or Asia Minor region. It is named after the Latin word, coriandrum, which is believed to be a derivative of the Greek word koriannon or koros, meaning bug. Some say it was specifically named after bed-bugs, because of the unpleasant smell of the immature plant, which later becomes more sweet smelling upon ripening
Coriander has a long history of medicinal and culinary uses; appearing in a number of ancient texts, even appearing in Sanskrit as far back as 5000 BC. Egyptians called it “the spice of happiness”, which is most likely due to the alleged aphrodisiac effects it can have and why they planted coriander seeds inside tombs of the 21st dynasty (~1000 BC).
Even the father of medicine, the Greek physician Hippocrates, recommended the use of coriander. Other cultures also believed in all sorts of medicinal benefits attributed to consuming coriander, ranging from easing menstrual flow, creating immortality and aiding in digestion.
Like pomegranate, coriander is also mentioned in the Bible, where it was compared to manna (a food that God gave the Israelites, saving them from starvation in the desert):
What is coriander exactly?
Coriander is an annual herb that usually grows to around 50cm in height. It is part of the Apiaceae family (commonly known as the carrot family) that contains a group of aromatic plants, often with hollow stems, such as herbs like cumin, dill and caraway, and vegetables like carrot, celery and fennel.
Just about every part of the coriander plant can be used, from the small dry fruit that contains two seeds to the leaves, stems and roots. Each having a slightly different nutrition and flavour profile.
Traditionally, the plant was used for cooking and medicinal purposes, but over time has become an important flavouring and aromatic agent in anything from cosmetics and perfumes to beverages and tobacco, due to the essential oils it contains (notably the terpene, linalool) and the unique citrus and nutty notes it imparts.
The leaves of coriander plants are broad and resemble parsley, sometimes being referred to as Chinese parsley or dhania in India and Africa. In North America, the leaves are called cilantro, which is the Spanish word for coriander, but in other parts of the world, it is simply just coriander (obviously).
When kept whole, the seeds can be used as a pickling ingredient for vegetables, added to sausages and bread, or to alcoholic drinks like gin and beer. The seeds are more commonly used when ground into a powder for spice mixes which are added to packaged products or used fresh in Indian, Asian and Mexican cuisines.
When is coriander available?
Coriander is a winter herb, that grows in pretty much every region of the world, from Europe, the Middle East, Asia to the Americas. The leaves are in season during the colder winter months, before it ‘bolts’ to form a flower, producing the seeds in the warmer summer months.
How do I store coriander?
Fresh coriander leaves will last the longest when stored inside the fridge in an upright container with a little water to coat the roots, and covered with a plastic bag to minimise the amount of gases that can enter (just like last weeks asparagus). I would recommend changing the water every day or two.
The seeds can be kept in airtight containers and will last a long time, if not exposed to oxygen. Ground seeds cannot really be prepared and stored for later use and should be used as soon as possible, as they will degrade very fast. So when buying the spice component of the plant, always go for the whole seeds, and just grind them up when needed.
How do I use coriander?
Coriander is most commonly used in Mexican, Indian, African, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines, added to anything from soups, stir-fries, sauces and chutneys. The leaves are great for garnishing any meal (like the Thai Green Curry below) or side dishes like salsa and guacamole.
The seeds can be added to stews, soups and slow-cooked meals or even roasted as a snack like dhana dal. The ground-up powder is fundamental to many spice mixes like garam masala and curry powders.
Did you know?
Some people really hate the smell and/or taste of coriander, describing it as tasting dirty or soapy. A recent study found that that the reason for the soapy taste is due to a difference in our genetic makeup. The number of people that detected a soap like taste can vary from around 4 – 14% of the population, depending on ancestry.
Why should I eat coriander?
Coriander has many nutritional and medicinal benefits. Coriander seeds are made up of around 40% fibre, and in just 1 tbsp we can access a whole bunch of essential minerals (like iron, magnesium, copper and calcium) and omega-6 fatty acids.
Apart from the seeds, the leaves which are perfect for garnishing and are super low in calories, have a huge amount of Vitamin K in such a small portion.
In addition, studies have also shown that coriander extracts;
- can help to treat diabetes (in mice) by reducing hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose).
- reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and lipids (fats) that are circulating in the bloodstream (i.e. anti-diabetic effects).
- produce oils and alcohols that have strong anti-bacterial activities on human pathogens.
contain the essential oil, citronellol, which can inhibit ulcers forming in the mouth, stomach and small intestine.
A number of other studies have concluded that chemicals from coriander leaves and seeds may also contain the ability to provide anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, anti-depressant and anticonvulsant effects on humans.
Images are my own, sourced from Pixabay or linked
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