As a spice, the lemony and floral flavour of coriander finds its way into the many Asian, Latin, and Indian dishes, as well as European cuisine. While the leaves of the coriander plant are a herb known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, the round seeds are used to make coriander spice. This spice is found in the Indian spice mixture garam masala, which is used in many savoury dishes.
What Is Coriander?
Coriander is a spice produced from the round, tan-coloured seeds of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum), which is a member of the parsley family. The word coriander can be used to describe the entire plant: leaves, stems, seeds, and all. But when speaking of coriander, most people are referring to the spice produced from the seeds of the plant. The leaves of the plant are commonly called cilantro, which comes from the Spanish word for coriander, or Chinese parsley. Coriander roots also appear in culinary use as a pungent addition to Thai curries. Coriander grows as a native plant around the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and in the Americas.
Little is known about the origins of the coriander plant, although it is generally thought to be native to the Mediterranean and parts of southwestern Europe. Experts believe its use dates back to at least 5,000 B.C. References to coriander can be found in Sanskrit writings, and the seeds were placed in Egyptian tombs. Coriander even rates a mention in the Old Testament, in which the manna provided to the Jews fleeing Egypt was described as being like coriander seed. Coriander was one of the first herbs grown by the American colonists of Massachusetts. And seventeenth-century Frenchmen used distilled coriander to make a type of liquor. Today, cilantro is cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world, and the herb is used worldwide.
What Does It Taste Like?
Coriander seeds have a pleasing lemony flavour and floral aroma. The flavour goes very well with cumin and many recipes include equal amounts of the two spices. The plant’s leaves and the ripened seeds taste completely different and they cannot be substituted for each other. Fresh cilantro tastes pungent, and to a certain percentage of the population, it tastes soapy.
Cooking With Coriander
The whole seeds are sometimes used in pickling and brining. Coriander seeds are usually toasted and ground before using; otherwise, they can have a tough texture to chew. Ground coriander is used as a spice in dishes like curry and in baked goods. Dry roast them in a pan or in the oven at a low temperature, then use a spice grinder to produce the ground coriander.
Do be sure to read recipes carefully. If it calls for a bunch of coriander or directs you to chop the coriander and discard the stems, it is referring to the fresh cilantro leaves rather coriander seeds.