"Cilantro" redirects here. It is not to be confused with the related herb Eryngium foetidum
, also known as "culantro" or "Mexican coriander".
) is an annual herb
in the family Apiaceae
. It is also known as Chinese parsley
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.
Flowers of Coriandrum sativum
Coriander is native to regions spanning from Southern Europe
and Northern Africa
to Southwestern Asia
. It is a soft plant growing to 50 cm (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers
are borne in small umbels
, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer (5–6 mm or 3
in) than those pointing toward it (only 1–3 mm or 1
in long). The fruit
is a globular, dry schizocarp
3–5 mm (1
in) in diameter. Pollen size is approximately 33 micrometres.
First attested in English during the late 14th century, the word "coriander" derives from the Old French coriandre
, which comes from Latincoriandrum
in turn from Ancient Greek
possibly derived from or related to κόρις kóris
(a bed bug),
and was given on account of its foetid, bed bug-like smell.
The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek
(variants: 𐀒𐀪𐁀𐀅𐀙 ko-ri-a2-da-na
, 𐀒𐀪𐀊𐀈𐀜 ko-ri-ja-do-no
, 𐀒𐀪𐀍𐀅𐀙 ko-ri-jo-da-na
written in Linear B
syllabic script (reconstructed as koriadnon
, similar to the name of Minos
's daughter Ariadne
) which later evolved to koriannon
is the Spanish word for coriander, also deriving from coriandrum
. It is the common term in American English
for coriander leaves, due to their extensive use in Mexican cuisine
Origin and history
Coriander grows wild over a wide area of Western Asia and Southern Europe, prompting the comment: "It is hard to define exactly where this plant is wild and where it only recently established itself."
Fifteen desiccated mericarps
were found in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
level of the Nahal Hemar
Cave in Israel
, which may be the oldest archaeological find of coriander. About half a litre of coriander mericarps was recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen
, and because this plant does not grow wild in Egypt, Zohary and Hopf interpret this find as proof that coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians
The Ebers Papyrus
, an Egyptian medical text dated to around 1550 BC, describes coriander's medicinal and culinary uses.
Coriander seems to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B
tablets recovered from Pylos
refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacture of perfumes; it apparently was used in two forms: as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavour of its leaves.
This appears to be confirmed by archaeological evidence from the same period; the large quantities of the species retrieved from an Early Bronze Age
layer at Sitagroi
could point to cultivation of the species at that time.
Later, coriander was mentioned by Hippocrates
(c. 400 BC), as well as Dioscorides
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, Chinese parsley, or (in the US and commercially in Canada) cilantro.
Coriander potentially may be confused with culantro
L.), in the same family (Apiaceae
) as coriander (Coriandrum sativum
L.), but from a different genus
. Culantro has a distinctly different spiny appearance, a more potent volatile leaf oil
and a stronger aroma.
The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus
The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many foods, such as chutneys
and salads, salsa
, and as a widely used garnish for soup, fish and meat.
As heat diminishes their flavour, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the flavour diminishes.
The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
Dried coriander fruits, often called "coriander seeds" when used as a spice
Linalool, a terpenoid
, is a major contributor to the fragrance of coriander.
The dry fruits are coriander seeds. The word "coriander" in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to terpenes linalool
. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.
The variety C. s. vulgare
has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm (1
in), while var. C. s. microcarpum
fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm (0.06–0.12 in). Large-fruited types are grown mainly by tropical and subtropical countries, e.g. Morocco, India, and Australia, and contain a low volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%). They are used extensively for grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade. Types with smaller fruit are produced in temperate regions and usually have a volatile oil content around 0.4-1.8%, so are highly valued as a raw material for the preparation of essential oil.
Coriander is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground
form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavour, aroma, and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavour quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala
curries which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin
, acting as a thickener in a mixture called dhania jeera
Roasted coriander seeds, called dhania dal
, are eaten as a snack.
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling
vegetables. In Germany and South Africa (see boerewors
), the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye
bread (e.g. Borodinsky bread
), as an alternative to caraway
. The Zuni people
of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chili and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad.
Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers
. The coriander seeds are used with orange peel to add a citrus character. Coriander seed is one of the main traditional ingredients in the South African Boerewors
, a spiced mixed-meat sausage.
have a deeper, more intense flavor than the leaves, and are used in a variety of Asian cuisines, especially in Thai dishes
such as soups or curry pastes
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, raw
Raw coriander leaves are 92% water, 4% carbohydrates
, 2% protein
, and less than 1% fat
(table). The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is different from the fresh stems or leaves. In a 100-gram (31
oz) reference amount, leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A
, vitamin C
and vitamin K
, with moderate content of dietary minerals
(table). Although seeds generally have lower vitamin content, they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber
Taste and smell
Different people may perceive the taste of coriander leaves differently. Those who enjoy it say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavor, while those who dislike it have a strong aversion to its pungent taste and smell, characterizing it as soapy or rotten.
Studies also show variations in preference among different racial groups: 21% of East Asians, 17% of Caucasians, and 14% of people of African descent expressed a dislike for coriander, but among the groups where coriander is popular in their cuisine, only 7% of South Asians, 4% of Hispanics, and 3% of Middle Eastern subjects expressed a dislike.
Studies have shown that 80% of identical twins shared the same preference for the herb, but fraternal twins agreed only about half the time, strongly suggesting a genetic component to the preference. In a genetic survey of nearly 30,000 people, two genetic variants linked to perception of coriander have been found, the most common of which is a gene involved in sensing smells.
The gene, OR6A2
, lies within a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes, and encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde
chemicals. Flavor chemists have found that the coriander aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are aldehydes. Those who dislike the taste are sensitive to the offending unsaturated
aldehydes and at the same time may be unable to detect the aromatic chemicals that others find pleasant.
Association between its taste and several other genes, including a bitter-taste receptor, have also been found.
Some people are allergic to coriander leaves or seeds, having symptoms similar to those of other food allergies
In one study examining people suspected of food allergies to spices, 32% of pin-prick
tests in children and 23% in adults were positive for coriander and other members of the family Apiaceae, including caraway
, and celery
The allergic symptoms may be minor or life-threatening.
Other herbs are used where they grow in much the same way as coriander leaves.
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- ^ cilantro in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary
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Last edited on 15 April 2021, at 01:24
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