It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 centimetres 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 towards it (only 1–3 mm long). The fruit is a globular, dry schizocarp 3–5 mm diameter. While in the English-speaking world (except for the U.S.) the leaves and seeds are known as coriander, in American culinary usage the leaves are generally referred to by the Spanish word cilantro.
In Australia, there is usually only one type of coriander available. The herb looks a little like parsley, with flat leaves, long thin stems and a taste of citrus. The chopped fresh leaves of the coriander plant may be used as a garnish, or added raw to dishes. As heat lessens the flavour, leaves are added immediately before serving.
The roots and stems of the plant may also be used in cooking (especially in Thai dishes including soups and curries). The roots have a more intense citrusy taste than the leaves.
The coriander plant also produces seeds. These can be briefly heated or roasted and then ground and used as a spice. The coriander seed is a common spice used in a variety of cuisines, especially curries.
Another type of coriander that is sometimes available is Long coriander (Eryngium foetidum), also known as saw leaf coriander. It is similar to common coriander but has a more intense taste. It is native to the Caribbean and is found in Mexico, South America and Central America.
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is common in South Asian, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Portuguese, Chinese, African, and Scandinavian cuisine.
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, Chinese parsley, or cilantro.
It should not be confused with culantro (Eryngium foetidum L.) which is a close relative to coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) but has a distinctly different appearance, a much more potent volatile leaf oil and a stronger smell.
The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. Many experience an unpleasant “soapy” taste or a rank smell and avoid the leaves. The flavours have also been compared to those of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). There appears to be a genetic component to the detection of “soapy” versus “herby” tastes.
The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods (such as chutneys and salads), in Chinese dishes, in Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish, and in salads in Russia. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. As heat diminishes their flavour, 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. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
The dry fruits are known as coriander or coriandi seeds. In India 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 flavour when crushed. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.
The variety C. s. vulgare or macrocarpum has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm, while var. microcarpum fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm. 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%, and are therefore 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. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. Ground coriander seed loses flavour 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. It acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. It is the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes: sambhar and rasam. Coriander seeds are boiled with water and drunk as indigenous medicine for colds.
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used for pickling vegetables, and making sausages in Germany and South Africa. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread as an alternative to caraway. Coriander seeds are used in European cuisine today, though they were more important in former centuries.
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.
How To Store Coriander
Coriander (cilantro) can normally be found fresh in your local grocery store and is available year-round. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen. Before you store coriander it should be rinsed and left moist (not wet) and place in a plastic bag. The coriander may be stored for up to 1 week. The most easy and convenient way of storing coriander leaves is pluck the leaves and tender stems and store them in an airtight container. As and when you need, clean them in water and use them.
Coriander Cooking Tips
- Coriander leaves and coriander seeds are not interchangeable. They have completely different flavours and textures.
- Fresh coriander leaves are preferable in all applications calling for coriander leaves.
- Coriander seeds are generally toasted before being ground to bring out their full flavour.
- Coriander is a popular ingredient in Indian curries, particularly garam masala.
- Coriander root may be used as a replacement for garlic. Wash roots thoroughly before mincing or crushing.
- When adding fresh coriander to a hot dish, add at the last minute to get full benefit of the flavour.
- Try a Middle Eastern fish dish – combine chopped coriander leaves, chopped walnuts, crushed garlic, lemon juice, ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper, then add some of the mixture into the cavity of a firm-fleshed fish (try snapper or blue eye), spoon the rest of the mix on top and bake until the fish is done.
- Make some patties – combine pork mince (or try beef), a whisked egg, chopped coriander leaves, chopped mint, chopped green or red chillies and seasoning, then shape into patties, fry and serve topped with coriander leaves and thinly sliced cucumber.
- Add a Thai twist to prawns – Marinate raw prawns in a mixture of chopped coriander leaves, lime juice, oil, fish sauce, chopped garlic and sliced shallots, then grill or barbecue the prawns, top with coriander and serve with lime wedges alongside a green leaf salad.
- Whip up an easy salad dressing – blend red chilli, garlic and ginger, add lime juice, honey, balsamic vinegar and coriander leaves, then drizzle olive oil into the blender until the dressing is combined.
- Enjoy a simple soup – fry chopped carrots, onion and chilli, add vegetable stock and chopped coriander leaves, then blitz in a food processor and serve with crusty bread.
Health Effects and Medicinal Uses of Coriander
Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect.
Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this activity was found to be caused in part by these chemicals acting as non-ionic surfactants.
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Experiments in mice support its use as an anxiolytic. Coriander seeds are 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. In holistic and traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and as a digestive aid.
Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for diabetes. A study on mice found coriander extract had both insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity.
Coriander seeds were found in a study on rats to have a significant hypolipidaemic effect, resulting in lowering of levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein. This effect appeared to be caused by increasing synthesis of bile by the liver and increasing the breakdown of cholesterol into other compounds.
Coriander can produce an allergic reaction in some people
- Coriander is considered an aid to the digestive system. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices.
- A poultice of coriander seed can be applied externally to relieve painful joints and rheumatism.
- The essential oils of the coriander leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. Coriander seeds are considered to have cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Coriander has pain-relieving properties and is useful for headaches, muscle pain, stiffness and arthritis. Coriander is useful as a tea, because of its helpful effects on the digestive tract, and is good for increasing appetite, and relieving nausea, diarrhea, flatulence and indigestion. It is reputed to enhance circulation and relieve fluid retention.
Why coriander is good to eat
- Coriander is a good source of vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system), C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Coriander contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
Coriander Leaf Substitute
Replace the coriander called for in your recipe with an equal amount of fresh parsley, tarragon, dill or a combination of the three. For maximum flavour, add the herbs to the dish just before serving it. Cooking diminishes the flavour of the spices significantly (coriander included).
These substitutes work best when you’re using the coriander as a garnish. If the recipe you’re working on calls for a large amount of coriander , consider making something else. Replacing the coriander that’s supposed to be sprinkled on top of a finished dish is very different than replacing the herb in a recipe like chimichurri, where the finished product is almost 50 % coriander.
Note that dried coriander leaf isn’t a good substitute for fresh. It loses much of its flavor when it’s dried and incorporates into the dish quite differently. If you don’t have any of the suggested fresh herbs on hand, just leave the cilantro out. Your recipe should still taste fine without it.
Nutrition Facts : Coriander, fresh, leaves & stems
- Serving Size100 g
- Amount per serving
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat0.7 g0.9%
- Saturated Fat0.02 g0.1%
- Trans Fat0.0 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat0.07 g
- Monounsaturated Fat0.47 g
- Cholesterol0.0 mg0%
- Sodium28 mg1.22%
- Total Carbohydrate3.7 g1.35%
- Dietary Fiber3.5 g12.5%
- Total Sugars3 g
- Added Sugars0.0 g0%
- Protein3.1 g6.2%
- Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)0.0 mcg0%
- Calcium84 mg6.46%
- Iron6.8 mg37.78%
- Potassium521 mg11.09%
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)48 mg53.33%
- Vitamin E (Tocopherol)2.5 mg16.67%
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)0.1 mg8.33%
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.15 mg11.54%
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)0.76 mg4.75%
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.15 mg11.54%
- Folate64 mcg16%
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine)0.0 mcg0%
- Phosphorus34 mg4.86%
- Iodine6.6 mcg4.4%
- Magnesium18 mg4.5%
- Zinc0.4 mg3.64%
- Selenium0.9 mcg1.64%
- Copper0.02 mg2.22%
- Manganese0.4 mg17.39%