Coriander is a hardy annual herb with solid branched stems, feathery upper leaves and white or pink flowers which produce seeds with a sweet citrus flavour. The upper leaves are aromatic and used as a fresh herb in salads, stews and curries. The dried seeds are used either whole or ground, in sweet and savoury dishes, the root too can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
NUTRITION & HEALTH Coriander plays a key role in Indian cooking. Heat reduces the flavour of the leaves, so they are used raw or added to dishes immediately before serving, for example chopped as a garnish on dal. The seeds are used in curries, chutneys and mixtures for stuffing vegetables; ground to powder they are an essential ingredient in curry powder. In Mexican cooking coriander leaves are found in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish. Fresh ground coriander can also be added to milk and rice puddings as on alternative to nutmeg or cinnamon.
The dried fruits are used in tea mixtures, as they contain an essential oil, proteins, tannin, sugar and vitamin C, and are believed to aid digestion. The seeds have a reputation for lessening the effects of alcohol.
HISTORY. Native to the Eastern Mediterranean and India, coriander has been cultivated and used as a culinary and medicinal herb for at least 3,000 years - it's referred to in the Old Testament as a Passover herb. Its name derives from Greek, possibly from a word for bedbug, because the whole plant (and especially its lower leaves), before its fruits mature smells strongly of bedbugs - not that we'd know!