Cilantro (Coriander) is an aromatic plant of the Apiaceae family. This spice is very common throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is cultivated everywhere and used in almost every kitchen. Its fragrance is special and very strong. Its name is derived from the Greek word “koris” which means “bed bug”.
Today, cilantro is cultivated everywhere, more intensely in Romania, Ukraine, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Argentina and in Mexico especially for its seeds and for its essential oil.
Coriander over time
Coriander is unknown in the wild, and it is difficult to know exactly its origin. It’s possible that coriander comes from the Mediterranean basin, from the Middle East or Asia Minor. The seeds were already used by the Semitic peoples 6,000 years before our era, then by the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, who flavored their bread. The plant is also mentioned in the Bible, where it was compared to the manna. In the Middle Ages, it was spread throughout Europe and it was introduced in America by the Spaniards during the conquest.
Coriander leaves are a classic of the Middle East, some parts of India, Southeast Asia and Latin America cuisines. On the other hand, with the exception of Portugal, they came with a variety of traditional dishes; their use in the West is relatively recent, because coriander was criticized to release a foul smell. However, under the influence of the different waves of immigrants who brought with them their culinary traditions, this situation was completely reversed, to the point that fresh coriander is today one of the most popular herbs on the market. In Southeast Asia, it also makes use of the roots that is added to the soup, stews and marine condiments.
Coriander is cultivated widely for its seeds in Ukraine, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Argentina, Mexico and Romania. The majority of the world’s production goes to the preparation of curry powder, which contains 25% to 40% of coriander. In addition, we can get an essential oil which is widely used in bakery and Deli, in alcoholic beverages, in perfumery and pharmaceutical products, where it masks the bitterness of some drugs. In Eastern Europe and Russia, corianders are grown as subspecies whose seeds are smaller and richer in essential oil.
Cilantro can be consumed for its leaves (fresh or dried) as well as for its seeds, two parts that are quite distinct from their content in different active compounds. Until now, the consumption of coriander related to health effects have not been studied in humans. On the other hand, certain properties attributed to coriander were evaluated in animals and this chapter will particularly address these studies.
Actives ingredients and properties
Antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. They are highly reactive molecules that would be involved in the onset of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and other diseases related to aging. Coriander contains several antioxidant compounds, mainly in the form of phenolique acids, but also of coumarins, terpenoids and flavonoides. Coriander leaves contain more acid phenolics than its grains. In return, the seeds contain a small amount of flavonoids, missing compounds from the leaves. A study in vitro reports also a superior antioxidant activity in extracts of coriander leaves compared to the grains.
According to the Canadian nutrient file, fresh cilantro leaves contain carotenoids, including beta carotene. In comparison, 125 ml of fresh coriander would contain almost as much beta carotene as 250 ml of broccoli. On the other hand, the same amount of fresh coriander contains ten times less than a carrot, a vegetable that is recognized for its exceptional content in beta carotene. Remember that beta carotene is better absorbed in the body with lipids at the same meal and that it has the ability to turn into vitamin A in the body. The seeds of coriander, however, would contain this valuable antioxidant compound.
In addition to the antioxidant activity of the coriander, the presence of these substances would partly explain its antibacterial activity observed in vitro. Always in experimental conditions, it has been shown that some antioxidant compounds from the seeds of coriander also showed an antioxidant effect for humans cells. Although this study does not evaluate the specific consumption of coriander seeds, the results reveal some protective effect against oxidative stress in the body.
Blood lipids. Research in rats revealed that the addition of seeds of coriander in their diet could reduce rates of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides, in addition to increasing the rate of cholesterol-HDL (“good” cholesterol). It is worth noting that these properties have been observed in animals with a lipid profile already deteriorated and that the amount of used coriander seeds represented 10% of their daily intake. One of the mechanisms of action would be the decrease in the absorption of the bile acids in the gut by the effect of coriander, thus resulting in a decrease of the cholesterol in the body. These very preliminary results will be evaluated in humans before concluding that there is evidence for the effectiveness of consumption of coriander on blood lipids.
Is coriander useful against diabetes?
Researchers have demonstrated that adding extracts of seeds of coriander to the diet of diabetic mice led to a reduction in their blood sugar. Coriander seeds contain compounds capable of stimulating the secretion of insulin and increase the entry of glucose into cells. According to the authors of the study, coriander could represent a new food additive to control blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, controlled clinical studies are necessary in order to verify if this effect also occurs in humans.
How to use coriander in the kitchen?
Use the seeds and the coriander powder:
Coriander seeds flavor jars of pickles, liqueurs and olive oils. Add some coriander seeds to your pili-pili (spicy olive oil).
Ground and associated with pepper berries, coriander seeds enter the composition of curry powder or even decorate tagine, sausages and terrines.
The flavour of coriander seed is subtly orange with a slight bitterness that approximates Nepalese Sil-Timur berries.
In Algeria, in the high trays, coriander seeds are ground and mixed with a preparation of powdered garlic which gives the powder a very strong smell (koussbor oua thoum, coriander and garlic). This powder is used in the preparation of many dishes like couscous.
You can find the same preparation in Tunisia but with molokheya powder, which is the basis of the recipe of the Tunisian molokheya, a typical Maghreb dish.
It’s a spice to sprinkle without hesitation on fish, grilled meat, potatoes, soups, rice, eggplant and salads (it is also part of the spice for salad mixture).
It is one of the spices that blend best with other spices; this is why it is found in most mixes, even the most original ones such as Dukkah spices.
There are no contraindications for its use going from appetizer to dessert. You can even put in your tea and infusion; coriander will bring its perfume. For example, you can put coriander in our tea to have the flavor of gingerbread!
If you like its sweet flavor, its use will extend to your kitchen!
Tips for using the seeds of coriander:
In order to extract maximum flavor, grind the seeds of coriander in a mill or with the bottom of a glass. Add them in the middle / end of cooking.
If you prefer to use the whole seeds, to make chutney for example, one trick is to grill them a few seconds in a hot pan, dry them, but not too long to avoid burning the aromas. You see, the flavors will be tenfold!
Culinary uses of coriander in the world:
Coriander is used as a spice in the kitchen. They are used to spice up a variety of dishes such as salads, soups, dishes of fish and birds as well as cooking sausages or mixtures of spices and canned pickled among others.
Cilantro goes extraordinarily well with mint, basil, garlic, parsley, ginger and lemon.
While its flavors are used in most cuisines of the world, it is an essential seasoning in Asian cuisine, for the preparation of curries and chutneys, and in the Caribbean the typical use is for the guacamole.
In Spanish cuisine coriander is used for the preparation of the typical Canarian green mojo. In Germany, it is common to use the spice in beer and sausages and is also added to coffee and the preparation of couscous. Furthermore, cilantro is used to prepare Coca-Cola.
The essential oil of coriander is used in the preparation of liquors and drinks, even in the preparation of perfumes.
Use of the leaf of coriander:
The scent of the cilantro leaf is very fresh, with an orange perfume, but more bitter than the seed.
In the East, its leaves are used like parsley. If you use the coriander leaves, add it after cooking because its aroma will be stronger. You can use the leaf everywhere, for example: to flavor rice and fried eggs, but also sauces, salads and cakes and savory pies.
The cilantro leaf is very much used in Mexico where it is found in all the traditional dishes, the guacamole, the meat stews or associated with physalis, onions, habanero chili and vinegar to prepare the famous tomatillo salsa.
Its use extends to fish (particularly salmon) and seafood. We can use the coriander leaf with the beef and duck in all its forms.
To conclude, if you like the flavor of coriander leaves, go ahead and use it everywhere!
The cilantro is sold in a bundle. Its leaves should be bright green, slightly wet, no trace of yellowing. It’s also available frozen, either in leaves, or chiseled, and also lyophilized (in leaves).
The seeds are sold in small jars. They must be whole and without cracks, a uniform beige color. They are found in different mixtures of spices: curry, tandoori, ras el hanout, four spices, garam masala, five perfumes, etc.
The powder is sold in a box or in a small jar. It must have a strong smell, stronger than the seeds.
Coriander is used in many food preparations in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Its leaves enters in the composition of various traditional dishes such as the chermoula in Algeria and the Lebanese `9851308kebbe chorba. It flavors number of sauces, pranks, tajines, crumb, falafel, ceviches, etc. It can easily flavor: salads, sauces, fish, poultry, omelets… The seeds perfume pickles, spice vegetables cans in vinegar, enter into the composition of marinades and in Greek cuisines. They are essential in some chutneys and curries. The cilantro powder is use in the mixtures of spices for gingerbread and some curries.
Fresh, cilantro is kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, wrapped in paper towel or in a humid cloth. The seeds and the powder should remain in a close and dry container. The deadline for optimal use is indicated on the packaging. It is usually 2 to 3 years, but it’s better to use them before.
Coriander is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidant substances and especially carotenes, both in its leaves than in its seeds. Therefore, it is especially beneficial for health. In phytotherapy, coriander seeds have the reputation to ease digestion. The leaves decrease diarrhea, reduce toothache and improve the breath.
Cilantro can be called Arab parsley or Chinese parsley; there is only one variety of coriander. But we can use its leaves as its fruit, called commonly, and mistakenly “seeds”.
Fresh coriander: the leaves are jagged, resembling those of flat parsley or chervil, but more rounded, green, sometimes more red at the time of the flowering of the plant.
Fruits (seeds): fresh, they are green; their color is beige, then brown depending on their maturation. Harvested until its maturations is achieved, they are dried. They have a light scent of citrus.
Powder: dried fruits are roasted, and finely grounded. The powder has the same scent as the seeds.
Essential oil: it is extracted from the fruit and develops powerful aromas.
Whatever its form, coriander is present all year on markets.
Associations of flavours
Cumin, lime, lamb shoulder, habanero pepper, orange, hake
The coriander is very easy to grow for its leaves or its seeds.
For the production of leaves, cool temperatures are preferable, as the plant produces easily seeds when the temperature is warm (which, of course, is an advantage when you want to harvest the seeds). In fact, you may have an interest in planting seeds throughout the season, from spring until autumn, giving you always access to fresh leaves during a large part of the year.
To speed up germination, which is slow, soak the seeds overnight before sowing them at about 2.5 cm deep. Thin the seedlings to 12 cm.
Avoid too rich manure, which would diminish the flavor of the plant.
You can start to harvest the leaves about six weeks after sowing. You are going to do it until early winter if you manage to protect plants with a protection when frost threatens.
For the production of seeds, harvest the whole plant when the seed color changes from green to beige. Slide the head in a paper bag and hang it upside down in a dry place. Keep part of the harvest for planting the following year.