Coriander is a slender, solid-stemmed plant belonging to the carrot and parsley family, growing to a height of about 0.6 m. It is used both as a herb (the leaves) and a spice (the dried fruits or seeds).
Native range Mediterranean Region, Middle East
Major producers Eastern Europe, India, Morocco, USA, Central America, Brazil
Harvesting The seeds are harvested when they change colour from green to light brown, then threshed and dried in partial shade. In some regions the seeds are dried artificially.
Taste and aroma Coriander seeds have a sweet, woody fragrance with peppery and floral notes. The taste is sweet, mellow, and warm with a clear hint of orange peel.
Culinary uses Coriander is generally used in larger amounts than other spices because its flavour is mild. After dry roasting, coriander forms the basis of many curry powders and masalas. Whole coriander may be added to chicken and pork casseroles, and it is one of the ingredients in pickling spice. It is also used in condiments, seasonings, and as an ingredient in sweet spice mixtures for cakes and biscuits.
Other uses Coriander has antibacterial properties and is included in treatments for colic, neuralgia, and rheumatism. Before toothpaste was commonly used, coriander seeds were chewed as a breath freshener.
Historical uses Coriander has been used as a flavouring and medicine since ancient times, as early as 5000 BC according to Indian vedic literature. Seeds have been found in the tombs of the pharaohs from around 1000 BC, and the Roman legions carried coriander as they progressed through Europe, using it to flavour their bread.
Storage The seeds have a long shelf life and are easily ground to a powder.