Some know Coriander by it’s spanish name Cilantro, however the name is a little confusing: Coriander usually refers to the ripe and dried seeds of the plant, whereas Cilantro usually refers to the leaves of the plant. Coriander is an incredibly versatile plant. All parts of the plant are edible. The most used parts are the fruit and the leaves. Although its exact origins remains a mystery, coriander has been extensively cultivated for centuries in many temperate climates such as the Middle East, Latin America, the Southern part of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Nowadays the world’s largest producer by far is India, which accounts for about 70% of the annual global output.
Taste of Coriander Seeds
The seeds have a very different taste compared to the leaves. They have a warm, nutty, minty flavour, with touches of citrus taste. They contain a lot of volatile oils, which account for between 0.3% to 2% of the seed, depending on the origin. A higher % volatile oil means a stronger Coriander flavour. Usually Indian Coriander Seeds have a much higher volatile oil %, whereas seeds grown in Europe are much lower. An easy way to estimate the oil % is by looking at the colour. Bright green seeds generally have a higher oil content, and dull whitish seeds are much milder.
Using Coriander Seeds in Cooking
Coriander seeds are very popular all around the world. It is part of national cuisine of many countries. In Algeria ground coriander and garlic are mixed together and added to couscous. In Morocco it is used to season tajines (hot, slow cooked curries). In other parts of europe, coriander powder is commonly used to add a minty citrus flavour to pastries and soups.
Coriander seeds are extremely popular in India, as the seed is ground to form the main ingredient in many spice mixes such as garam masala, curry powder, chaat masala, etc. In India, Coriander and Cumin are commonly combined into a mixture and used as a base for many savoury recipes. This mix is called dhania jeera and the proportion of the two ingredients my vary from house to house. Usually it is prepared 2 part coriander to 1 part cumin or 1 part coriander to 1 part cumin.
In industry, we’ve seen that coriander is also commonly used in many spice blends. However, this is because it is relatively cheap compared to other spices, and mild varieties of coriander seeds with 0.3-0.5% oil don’t add much flavour, thus making them the perfect way to bulk up weight, while keeping the prices down!
Use of Coriander in medicine
Since ancient times, the seeds and leaves of the coriander plant has been used as medicine and spice in different ancient civilizations. Due to its preservative properties, coriander was used together with cumin by the Ancient Egyptians in the mummification process. It was also used to preserve meat, although in ancient times it may also been used to hide the taste of the rotten meat. Nowadays, apart from its culinary use, coriander is also in popular in traditional home remedies for its carminative properties, aiding with digestion, appetite stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
Interestingly Coriander seeds are used in traditional Iranian medicine to relieve anxiety and insomnia. In a study from 2003 results have confirmed that Coriander has anxiolytic effect and may have potential sedative and muscle relaxant effect. Other scientific studies have since begun to research and verify different medicinal properties of the Coriander. It’s been shown that Coriander seeds can potentially lower cholesterol levels and have also been reported to be strong antioxidants, and could aid in digestion.
US National Center for Biotechnology Information: Herbs and Spices in Cancer Prevention and Treatment
US National Center for Biotechnology Information: Anti-granuloma activity of Coriandrum sativum in experimental models
Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran: Coriandrum sativum: Evaluation of its anxiolytic effect…
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