Coriander (Coriandrum sativum
) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is also known as Chinese parsley, dhania or cilantro. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds (as a spice) are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.
Most people perceive the taste of coriander leaves as a tart, lemon/lime taste, but to nearly a quarter of those surveyed, the leaves taste like dish soap, linked to a gene which detects some specific aldehydes that are also used as odorant substances in many soaps and detergents.
Both the green feathery leaves and the spherical seeds of coriander are indispensable in the kitchen, especially to anyone who is fond of curries. The seed is sold both whole and ground and is the main ingredient in curry powder. It has a sweet taste reminiscent of orange peel. The plant grows to a height of 2 feet with a spread of 9 inches. The bright, green leaves are fan shaped and become more feathery towards the top of the plant. The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer, are small and white, formed in umbel-like clusters. The pale brown roots are fibrous and tapering, shaped like a carrot. Coriander will not grow well in humid climates. It needs a dry summer and a sunny location.
Coriander is a commonly used domestic remedy, valued especially for its effect on the digestive system, treating flatulence, diarrhoea and colic. It settles spasms in the gut and counters the effects of nervous tension. The seed is aromatic, carminative, expectorant, narcotic, stimulant and stomachic. It is most often used with active purgatives in order to disguise their flavour and combat their tendency to cause gripe. The raw seed is chewed to stimulate the flow of gastric juices and to cure foul breath and will sweeten the breath after garlic has been eaten. Some caution is advised, however, because if used too freely the seeds become narcotic. Externally the seeds have been used as a lotion or have been bruised and used as a poultice to treat rheumatic pains. The essential oil extracted from the fruit has medicinal properties. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Appetite stimulant'.