Dainty, Feathery and Savory Coriander

By Navodita Maurice

Coriander scientifically known as Coriandrum sativum is a member of the family Apiaceae. It is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. The plant is soft, hairless and attains a height of 50 cm. the leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant and feathery around the flowering area. The flowers are borne in umbels. They are white or very pale pink, asymmetrical with petals pointing away from the umbel. The fruit measure 3-5 mm in diameter is a globular dry schizocarp. Coriander derives its name from the Latin word.

All parts of the plant are edible but fresh green leaves and seeds are more frequently used for cooking. It is a part of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Texan, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisines. The leaves are known by different names like coriander leaves, Chinese parsley or cilantro. The leaves have a different taste as compared to that of the seeds. The flavors are sometimes compared with that of stink bugs and other aldehyde derivatives. The fresh leaves are very important part of many Chinese and South Asian foods. Chopped leaves are used for garnishing curries and pulses. The leaves spoil quickly after being plucked from the plant and lose their aroma and flavor. Fresh leaves are used in salads in Russian cuisines.

The dry fruits are known as coriander or coriander seeds and they are known as dhania in India. The seeds have a lemony-citrus flavor when crushed due to the presence of terpenes, linalool and pinene. It is nutty, spicy and crispy. The fruits are also known for their oil content. The varieties belonging to India, Morocco and Australia contain less oil content in the seeds. They are widely used in blending and grinding purposes in the spice trade. Varieties with small seeds are produced in the temperate regions. There are rich in volatile oil content of about 0.4-1.8% and are highly valued as raw material for the production of essential oil. The seeds are either used as whole or in ground form. They can be roasted and then ground to enhance their aroma.  Ground seeds lose flavor very easily.

Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala in the Indian curies often used with cumin seeds. It acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds are often used as a snack. The seeds are often boiled with water and used as a medicine against common cold. In Germany and South Africa coriander seeds are used for pickling vegetables. In Russia and Central Europe they are often used as an alternative for caraway. They are often used for brewing certain styles of beer.

The roots of this plant have a more intense and deeper flavor than the leaves. They are widely used in a number of Asian as well as Thai cuisines. Coriander like other spices contains many antioxidants that prevent spoilage of food. Although both leaves and roots contain antioxidants but the leaves have been shown to have a stronger effect. Chemicals derived from the leaves have shown to have antibacterial properties against Salmonella choleraesuis. It has been used as a folk medicine to treat insomnia and anxiety in Iran. They are used as diuretic in Indian system of medicine. It has been documented to be effective against diabetes. A study carried out in rats indicated that coriander seeds are effective in levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein. It can even cause allergic manifestations in some individuals.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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