Coriander (scientific name Coriandrum sativum) is a potently fragrant annual herb growing vertically up to a height of anything between 30 cm (one foot) and 90 cm (three feet). This plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean and southern European region and is among the most essential spices worldwide, used extensively in cooking.
The vividly green and gleaming coriander leaves are found in two different types. The leaves belonging to the first type are wide, jagged and those growing near the base of the plant have resemblance to those of parsley. On the other hand, the leaves on the upper portion of the herb resemble those of ferns and possess a more potent whiff. The aroma as well as taste of coriander leaves is especially pungent and they frequently possess an acquired flavor.
The stems of coriander plants are thin, fragile and branched while the taproots are pointed having a small number of branches. After two to three months of sowing, the coriander plants bear delicate, lace-like bunches of petite flowers having white, purple or pink hues.
The coriander seeds are little, rotund and ridged. They occur after the flowers have withered and possess a sweet, peppery aroma having a balsamic, spicy connotation. The flavor of these seeds is slightly burning having a somewhat tinge of an orange peel. However, the scent as well as the flavor of ripened dried out coriander seeds differ somewhat from that of the plants leaves. The fresh new seeds of coriander may, however, have an aroma that may not be liked by some people. All parts of the coriander plant including its leaves, roots and seeds are edible.
Leaves, seeds, roots.
The essential oil extracted from coriander seeds is aromatic as well as refreshing. In addition, this oil possesses a number of therapeutic properties, including aperitif, carminative (a medicine that eases flatulence) and it encourages digestion in the stomach as well as the intestines. Generally, this oil is also helpful for the nervous system. Coriander oil is primarily used in the masking of foul medications, particularly laxatives, owing to its anti-gripping properties. There was a time when coriander leaves were taken internally to cure ‘Rose’ or ‘St. Anthony’s fire’ - an acute skin infection termed ‘erysipelas’ and attributable to streptococcal bacteria. In fact, this health condition has been responsible for several deaths prior to the introduction of antibiotics. People in Asia also use this herb to treat headaches, piles and enlargements while the fruits of this plant were used for treating conjunctivitis, colic and piles. The essential oil from coriander was employed for curing a number of conditions like rheumatism, colic and neuralgia while the seeds were used in the form of a paste to cure ulcers in the mouth and in the form of a poultice to treat other types of ulcers.
Studies undertaken recently have endorsed the use of coriander in the form of a soother for the stomach in adults as well as colicky infants. Coriander encloses an antioxidant which is effective in putting off the rotting of animal fats. In addition, this herb also encloses certain substances that destroy bacteria and fungi responsible for spoiling meat. Similar substances are present in cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant) too and they are effective in preventing wounds from being infected.
Children below two years and suffering from colic may be given a diluted tea prepared from coriander. This herb is also safe for use by infants and may possibly be beneficial for them in alleviating pain and also aid in inducing sleep which is very essential at times. Coriander as well as cilantro enclose certain substances that work to eliminate specific fungi and bacteria thereby preventing the wounds from becoming infected. One of the best home remedies for treating insignificant cuts, wounds, scrapes is to rinse the affected area meticulously using water and soap and then sprinkling a little dried coriander seed powder on them. Some fascinating findings of latest studies hint that this herb also has anti-inflammatory impacts. Coriander may also possibly be useful in alleviating arthritic pain, which is attributable to inflammation.
Coriander is one of the most extensively used spices worldwide and is used in several culinary items. For instance, you may include fresh, young cilantro (coriander leaves) in salads and also make use of them to garnish soups and fish. In addition, cilantro forms an essential ingredient of tomato sauces, salsa and chutneys. Coriander forms a staple in the cuisines of several parts of the world including Asia, East India, Mexico and South as well as Central America.
You may also experiment by including cilantro in your preferred cooking procedures for crab, tuna, salmon, shrimp and snapper, and take delight in this spice’s particularly sharp taste in lamb stews and stir-fry preparations. In addition, you may also try cilantro with cooked beans, poultry, fried rice and even pork. As cilantro quickly loses its essence when you cook it for some time, it is advisable that you add this spice to your dishes just before serving them.
It is worth mentioning here that coriander seeds form a very important element of almost all curry powders, especially in all curry recipes in eastern India. People in India heat the coriander seeds lightly prior to grinding as this intensifies the curry-like essence of the seeds. In the culinary of the Middle East people extensively use coriander in stews and meat preparations.
It is recommended that you make use of coriander seeds as a whole or powdered while making soups, sauces and also desserts like prunes or stewed apples and in various types of meat preparations. In addition, you may include mulled wine with a view to impart a summery, warm flavour to your dishes.
Commercially, powdered coriander is utilized to add essence to baked items as well as processed meats like sausages and hot dogs. The essential oil from the coriander seeds is employed in preparing chewing gum, candy, canned soups, sauces, ice creams, gin and liqueurs in addition to several products made from tobacco.
You may also boil coriander roots as the Thai do to add essence to soups as well as chicken dishes.
Apart from its therapeutic as well as culinary uses coriander is also used in craft, especially the aromatic seeds of this plant which are incorporated in sachets and potpourris.
Habitat and cultivation
Coriander plants flourish in soil types that range from medium to clay (heavy), have an adequate drainage, are fertile and deep. However, while cultivating coriander, you should not excessively fertilize the soil because excessive nitrogen impedes the maturing of the seeds (fruits) and, at the same time, lessens their flavour. Coriander plants have the ability to tolerate pH levels ranging from 4.8 to 8.2. Although coriander can endure heat and cold it definitely needs total sunlight and irrigation when the weather condition is dry. It is recommended that you cultivate coriander in places that do not have too much wind because the plants of this species are prone to be withered away when their upper part are laden with seeds.
As it is difficult to cultivate coriander through transplantation, you need to directly sow its seeds soon after the last frosting in spring in your area. Coriander plants possess the aptitude to endure trivial frosts just fine but this annually growing plant does not have the ability to tolerate winter conditions. Nevertheless, these plants are usually able to grow from the seeds dropped from the crops of the earlier season and you may expect an early production in the subsequent year.
The seeds need to be planted with their husk 6 mm or 1/4 inch under the soil. It normally takes anything between 10 days to 20 days for the seedlings to appear. These slender seedlings need to be transplanted at a distance of 10 cm or four inches from one another and also ensure that there is no weeding in the area. In order to get a constant supply of the leaves (cilantro) you must sow the seeds once in every three weeks. Coriander plants grow, flower and produce seeds (fruits) very rapidly when the weather condition is hot. The plants stop as soon as the plant begins to blossom.
Coriander plants are usually free from pests but they are vulnerable to diseases caused by fungi, particularly when the weather is damp and rainy and also provided the soil contains excessive nitrogen. In addition, the plants are also liable to rotting of the roots provided the soil does not have an adequate drainage.
Coriander plants readily seed independently and if their growth is not controlled, they may prove to be a relentless weed.
Similar to the majority of other annually growing herbs, cilantro grows well in pots provided the conditions are conducive. You may grow this plant in a container measuring 10 inches (25 cm) to 12 inches (30 cm) placed in a sunlit location and using a regular potting mixture. As most of the commercially available potting mixes contain very low amount of nutrients, it would be necessary to provide additional feeding to these plants once in three weeks. You may feed the coriander plants growing in pots with low numbers of commercially available fertilizers or fertilizers containing fish emulsions. (Please note: It is especially important - nitrogen which is represented by the opening number, should be below 10). As the plant may produce a stinking smell for a number of weeks when the seeds are maturing, you may want to place the container a little away from the doorways and the seating areas.
When grown indoors, coriander plants have the ability to provide fresh leaves for all your culinary requirements during the entire winter provided you make just two to three plantings in succession. Cool temperature as well as bright lights inside the house would help the coriander plants to continue bearing fresh leaves. However, if you are cultivating coriander for its seeds, you need to grow the plants outdoors. In order to produce seeds, the plants require powerful sunlight as well as the conditions prevailing outdoors and this cannot be provided to indoor plants.
The fruit of coriander plant comprises approximately 1% of volatile (unsteady) oil - an active element of this herb. This volatile oil is colorless or has a pale yellow hue with the fragrance of coriander while the flavour is gently aromatic. These fruits produce roughly five per cent ash and also enclose tannin and malic acid. Chemical analysis of coriander has revealed that it has also high amounts of minerals as well as vitamins A, B and C. As coriander hardly contains any calorie worth mentioning, this herb is preferred by dieters.
Side effects and cautions
Although coriander is a safe herb, a number of people using or exposed to the essential oil of coriander seeds may possibly undergo dermatitis. This may also occur when they are dealing with coriander leaves.
Collection and harvesting
You should pick the fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro) after they have grown up to a height of anything between 5 cm (2 inches) and 15 cm (6 inches) whenever needed. If stored in a refrigerator these leaves will remain usable for roughly two weeks; particularly if you wrap them in a paper or moist towel and put it inside a plastic packet. Then again, you may also place a coriander plant inside a bottle containing water ensuring that the leaves are secured inside a plastic sachet. Cut the leaves when you require them.
While you may keep the leaves frozen inside ice cubes or also hang them to dehydrate, preserving coriander leaves (cilantro) in this manner will definitely possess the potent aroma and taste of those that are used fresh.
The seeds of coriander ought to be harvested immediately when the color of the fruit has turned pale brown. To harvest the seeds, you need to snip the plant at its base; put it inside a paper packet and store the packet in a temperate and dark place for it to dry. When the plant has dried, shake the packet to take out the dry seeds from its stems. Subsequently, gently rub the dried out fruits between your palms to crack them into the seed sections. Store these dried seeds in a sealed container.
The unearthed roots should be washed properly and frozen for use afterward. Here is a word of caution: do not dig up the roots of plants that are in blossom or fruiting because roots of such plants are of poorer quality compared to those of the young coriander plants.