Coriander: All About This Popular Indian Spice And Global Herb

Coriander, Coriandrum sativum, is an annual plant in the parsley family, Apiaceae. The plant is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, and for a long time, we’ve grown it as a herb and a spice. What is the coriander plant, where does it grow, and how is it used? Continue reading, and you’ll find out all there is to know about your favorite herb by the end of this post.

Common NameCoriander, Cilantro, Chinese parsley, Dhania
Botanical NameCoriandrum Sativum
Plant TypeAn Annual Herb
Size (Fully Grown)About 20 Inches (About 51 cm) Tall
Sun ExposureFull Sun, But Prefers Light Shade In Hotter Zones
Soil TypeLight, Well-draining Soil
Soil pHFrom 6.5 To 7.5
Flower ColorWhite To Pale Pink
U.S. Hardiness Zones2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 And 11
Native AreaThe Middle East And The Mediterranean

Coriander Or Cilantro: What’s The Difference?

There is much confusion between the terms cilantro and coriander. The word coriander refers to the complete plant, together with its leaves, stems, and seeds. Cilantro or Chinese parsley refers to the coriander plant’s leaves used as a herb in American, Chinese, and Indian dishes.

The dried seeds are typically referred to as coriander and used as a spice to flavor foods, such as curries, soups, and sausages. It is one of the primary ingredients of the famous Indian spice mix, garam masala.
Besides the leaves and seeds, the coriander roots are a delicacy of Thai dishes. They add a subtle spicy flavor that contributes to the uniqueness of the curry.

Different Coriander Types

There are several coriander types, with differences in their characteristics and uses. Here are some of the most popular ones you’ll find.

  1. Culantro
  2. Leaf Cilantro
  3. Seed Coriander
  4. Potluck Coriander
  5. Mexican Coriander
  6. Vietnamese Cilantro
  7. Indian Summer Cilantro

History Of The Herb That Earned A Mention In The Bible

Coriander is one of the oldest herbs and spices to appear in recorded history. It has long since been growing wild in the Mediterranean and southwestern Europe, but its use for culinary and medicinal purposes dates back to 5000 BC. Coriander is mentioned in the Old Testament, but the herb also appears in ancient Sanskrit and Egyptian writings.

An Egyptian medical text on papyrus that dates back to 1550 BC highlights coriander’s use in medicine and cooking. Seeds found from ancient Egyptians’ tombs prove that this herb was cultivated in the region since it did not grow wild in Egypt.

The Romans used it for breadmaking, to add flavor to their recipes. Romans also used the plant as a carminative. The Greeks had been cultivating it for a long time, too, at least since the second millennium BC.

The name coriander is derived from the Greek word “koris,” which means “a stink bug.” The meaning of the name possibly refers to the unpleasant smell of the compound E-2-Decenal, which’s present in coriander leaves and also in the secretions of stink bugs!

Interestingly enough, your genetic makeup determines if you can smell the compound or not. That’s precisely the reason why some people like Cilantro and others don’t.

The Journey To America

Coriander was introduced in Britain during the Bronze Age. From there, the herb traveled to North America with the early settlers in 1670. The English colonists in Massachusetts used it to prepare barley gruel and to preserve meat using vinegar.

What Does The Coriander Look Like?

Coriander is an annual plant that grows to about 3 feet (about 91 cm) tall, with leaves that grow on thin, upright stems. We harvest and use the leaves as a herb, but the round, brown seeds are typically dried and used as a spice. The fresh green color of the foliage, together with the small, white flowers in summers, makes a beautiful addition to any garden.

Roots

Coriander has a central white taproot, with small, thin rootlets appearing throughout the length in a darker shade. They’re intensely aromatic, with a lemony, peppery, and slightly “spicy” flavor. Like all the other parts of the plant, the roots are also edible. They make a popular addition to many Asian cuisines, including Thai.

Leaves

Coriander has broad, bipinnate leaves on the non-flowering stems and thin, feathery leaves on the longer flowering stem. They resemble parsley and are used in chutneys, salads, salsa or added to curries just before serving. Since heat lowers the flavor and aroma this magnificent herb brings to our dishes, they’re generally not cooked.

Flowers

The small pinkish-white flowers are born in umbel clusters and have varying sizes on the same flower. Those near the umbel center are generally a bit longer than those that are further from it.

Seeds

The plant bears oval, yellow-brown fruits that carry two seeds each. The seeds contain 0.1 to 1% essential oil and have a lemony flavor when crushed. They’re available as whole dried seeds or in ground form. For many culinary uses, the seeds are first roasted to elevate the aromas and flavor. It’s a vital component of the Indian garam masala mix and is also individually available to add to curries.

What Are The Best Growing Conditions For Coriander?

Coriander is a popular herb to grow in a home garden since it’s a low maintenance plant and offers fresh leaves to add to your everyday meals. You can also grow them for the seeds, but remember to choose a suitable variety for this need. This is because varieties bred for seeds tend to bolt much quicker than those grown for the leaves. Below, we have described the conditions the plant needs to grow well.

Ideal Temperature

Coriander is best grown in the cooler days of spring and fall. If you’re growing them for the leaves, don’t grow them in the summers since they’ll bolt quickly. Bolted plants only give a few leaves, bitter in flavor. The plant grows best when the temperature is somewhere between 50°F to 85°F (about 10 to 30°C), but coriander can still tolerate temperatures down to 10°F (about -12°C).

Best Location For Coriander

Coriander prefers a full sun environment, but southern gardeners should plant them in partial shade to protect them from the heat. So, please choose a location with light, well-drained soil to grow it, and space them around 6 to 8 inches (about 15 to 20 cm) apart for optimal growth.

Water And Fertilizing Needs

Keeping the soil evenly moist is very important during germination. Once seedlings appear, they’ll need about one inch (approximately 2,5 cm) of water each week. Avoid overwatering the plant since it’s susceptible to root rot.

You can fertilize the plant once or twice during the growing season with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, but remember not to overfertilize!

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Coriander?

Fresh coriander leaves have many health benefits while elevating the flavor and looks of any dish, while the ground seeds make an excellent spice. But, are there any medical conditions in which its use should be avoided or controlled? Let’s find out.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

There isn’t much information on whether the consumption of coriander is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. But, it’s sometimes linked to increased chances of miscarriage and other problems. So, it’s best to avoid the herb during this time.

Children

Coriander is safe for children as long as it’s offered in moderation. You can give your child coriander when they are only six months old, but chop them finely for easier digestion.

People With Allergies

Those who are allergic to caraway, fennel, mugwort, dill, and similar plants will most likely also be allergic to coriander.

People With Diabetes

Coriander can lower blood sugar levels and has a glycaemic value of 33, which is considerably low. Both factors make it a safe herb to include in the diet of people with diabetes. But, if you are on any medication, track your blood sugar levels closely and avoid consuming coriander in excess.

People With Low Blood Pressure

Coriander can reduce blood pressure. Avoid consuming these herbs in excess if you have low blood pressure or eat medicines to keep your blood pressure down.

Pets

Coriander plant is non-toxic to pets. You can offer them in small amounts as a treat, but don’t provide it in excess. Overfeeding with Cilantro can cause an upset stomach, bloating, and gas.

Featured image credit – © phanthit malisuwan – stock.adobe.com

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