The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the portions used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. Coriander seeds are available whole or in ground powder form.
Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. In parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been referred to as an “anti-diabetic” plant. In parts of India, it has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In the United States, coriander has recently been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects.
Control of Blood Sugar, Cholesterol and Free Radical Production
Recent research studies (though still on animals) have confirmed all three of these healing effects. When coriander was added to the diet of diabetic mice, it helped stimulate their secretion of insulin and lowered their blood sugar. When given to rats, coriander reduced the amount of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in their cell membranes. And when given to rats fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, coriander lowered levels of total and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), while actually increasing levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Research also suggests that the volatile oils found in the leaves of the coriander plant, commonly known as cilantro, may have antimicrobial properties.
A Phytonutrient-Dense Herb
Many of the above healing properties of coriander can be attributed to its exceptional phytonutrient content. Coriander’s volatile oil is rich in beneficial phytonutrients, including carvone,geraniol, limonene, borneol, camphor, elemol, and linalool. Coriander’s flavonoids include quercitin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and epigenin. Plus, coridander contains active phenolic acid compounds, including caffeic and chlorogenic acid.
Spice Up Your Life and Subdue the Salmonella
Coriander contains an antibacterial compound that may prove to be a safe, natural means of fighting Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness, suggests a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Working together, U.S. and Mexican researchers isolated the compound, dodecenal, which laboratory tests showed is twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin at killing Salmonella. Since most natural antibacterial agents found in food have weak activity, study leader Isao Kubo, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, noted, “We were surprised that dodecenal was such a potent antibiotic.”
While dodecenal is found in comparable amounts in both the seeds and fresh leaves of coriander, the leaves are usually eaten more frequently since they are one of the main ingredients in salsa, along with tomatoes, onions and green chillies.
In addition to dodecenal, eight other antibiotic compounds were isolated from fresh coriander, inspiring the food scientists to suggest that dodecenal might be developed as a tasteless food additive to prevent foodborne illness. While this may prove to be a useful idea, who wants to settle for “tasteless” food protection? Our suggestion at the World’s Healthiest Foods? Enjoy more fresh salsa and other delicious recipes featuring coriander!
Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment. Fresh coriander leaves are more commonly known as cilantro and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. This is not surprising owing to the fact that they belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae).
The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the parts that are used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. They have a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground powder form.
The name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, which means bug. It may have earned this name because of the “buggy” offensive smell that it has when unripe. The Latin name for coriander is Coriandrum sativum.
The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was cultivated in ancient Egypt and given mention in the Old Testament. It was used as a spice in both Greek and Roman cultures, the latter using it to preserve meats and flavor breads. The early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, including as an aromatic stimulant.
The Russian Federation, India, Morocco and Holland are among the countries that commercially produce coriander seeds. Coriander leaves aka Cilantro are featured in the culinary traditions of Latin American, Indian and Chinese cuisine.
How to Select and Store
Fresh coriander is called cilantro and the leaves should look vibrantly fresh and be deep green in color. They should be firm, crisp and free from yellow or brown spots.
Whenever possible, buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly, and coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle.
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried coriander since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
Coriander seeds and coriander powder should be kept in an opaque, tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground coriander will keep for about four to six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.
Since it is highly perishable, fresh coriander should always be stored in the refrigerator. If possible, it should stored with its roots still attached by placing the roots in a glass of water and covering the leaves with a loosely fitting plastic bag. If the roots have been removed, wrap the coriander leaves in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Whole coriander will last up to one week, while coriander leaves will last about three days.
Cilantro may also be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers, yet should not be thawed before use since it will lose much of its crisp texture. Alternatively, you can place it in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Fresh coriander (Cilantro) should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. The best way to clean coriander is just like you would spinach by placing it in a bowl of cold water and swishing it around with your hands. This will allow any sand or dirt to dislodge. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill it with clean water, and repeat this process until there is no dirt remaining in the water.
Coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle. You may wish to first soak them in cold water for ten minutes and then drain them, as this process will revive their fragrant aroma.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- In a saucepan over low heat, combine vanilla soymilk, honey, coriander and cinnamon for a delicious beverage.
- Healthy sauté spinach, fresh garlic and coriander seeds, mix in garbanzo beans, and season with ginger and cumin.
- Add coriander seeds to soups and broths.
- Use coriander seeds in the poaching liquid when preparing fish.
- Adding ground coriander to pancake and waffle mixes will give them a Middle Eastern flavor.
- Put coriander seeds in a pepper mill and keep on the dinner table so that you and your family can use them at any time.
Coriander seeds are not a commonly allergenic food and are not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.