Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 centimetres (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) than those pointing towards it (only 1–3 mm long). The fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3–5 mm diameter.
The word derives from German “coriandrum” in turn from Greek “κορίαννον”. The Mycenaean Greek form of the word, koriadnon is "similar to the name of Minos' daughter Ariadne, and it is plain how this might later evolve to koriannon or koriandron."
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is common in Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Texan, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, Chinese parsley, cilantro (in the Americas, from the Spanish for the plant), culantro (in some regions of Latin America; confusingly, this is also a common name for Eryngium foetidum).
The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. Some perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell and avoid the leaves. The flavours have also been compared to those of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). Belief that aversion is genetically determined may arise from the known genetic variation in taste perception of the synthetic chemical phenylthiocarbamide; however, no specific link has been established between coriander and a bitter taste perception gene.
The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods (particularly chutneys), in Chinese dishes and in Mexican dishes, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and curries. As heat diminishes their flavor quickly, 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 flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
Coriander leaves were formerly common in European cuisine.Today western Europeans usually eat coriander leaves only in dishes that originated in foreign cuisines, except in Portugal, where they are still an ingredient in traditional dishes.
The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds or coriandi seeds. The word coriander in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant itself. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavored.
It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. Ground coriander seed loses flavor quickly in storage and is best ground fresh.
Coriander seed is a spice (Hindi name: धनिया dhania), in garam masala and Indian curries, which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin. It acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. It is the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes: sambhar and rasam. Coriander seeds are boiled with water and drunk as indigenous medicine for colds.
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used for pickling vegetables, and making sausages in Germany and South Africa (see boerewors). In Russia and Central Europe coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread as an alternative to caraway. Coriander seeds are used in European cuisine today, though they were more important in former centuries.
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