Some spices have such a distinct aroma that you can identify their presence in any dish just by smelling them even from a distance. Coriander seed or cilantro as it is commonly called in America is known world over for its aromatic flavor and the spicy freshness it lends to many dishes. It is used in whole or grounded form and can be found in aisle of any spice market. The flavor of these seeds resembles citrus and is one of the oldest herbs ever known to mankind. The term coriander has been derived from the Greek word, "koris" which means, stinky bug. The reference resembles the strong flavor that hits the nostrils when the coriander seeds are grounded. These seeds find mention in the medieval medical documents of Greek and those written by the Sanskrit pundits and even in the Bible. The ancient Hebrews considered coriander to be native to Holy Land and believed that it was the sacred bitter herb sent by God that was to be eaten during Passover. Egyptians from the ancient times believed coriander seeds to be a secret key to happiness and made an aphrodisiac using coriander seeds, garlic and wine. The importance of coriander seeds to Egyptians can be taken from the fact that they were placed in the tombs of dead (Ramses II).
The plant of coriander grows up to a height of 2 feet and is also known as Chinese Parsley. These plants are highly sensitive to transplanting and hence mostly they are grown by sowing seeds at the place where they are expected to grow into a full plant. From sowing to storing the journey of coriander seeds involve various steps.
Sowing: The coriander seeds require warm soil temperature for successful germination. Hence you must start sowing the seeds when the climate is warm, especially if you are cultivating them outdoors. The seeds should be sown by making drills of 1 cm deep inside the soil and the spacing between each row should be around 35 cm The sown seeds should be placed at least 4 cm apart. The seeds will start germinating in 2 weeks. The seedlings are thinned 20 cm apart once they grow to a height of 4 to 5 cm. The seeds can also be sown in a container having a height of at least 15 cm. For continuous crop, the sowing process should be performed in every couple of weeks.
Position: Coriander plant grows best in direct sunlight and hence should be sowed where it can get regular sunlight.
Soil Type: Well drained and aerated soil is the primary requirement of coriander plant. To provide aeration and drainage in container broken pots or coarse gravel should be added at the base.
Tending: Since the plants are very sensitive arranging drop in the soil temperature by reducing water supply will make coriander bolt. This process is nature’s trick to survive in adverse conditions due to which the plant will start producing seeds. To reduce the shock effect the plants can be grown under glass, poly tunnel or cloche. Overwatering coriander plants can stunt its growth.
Harvesting: Harvesting is done either by cutting the plant from the base or cutting only the stalks that bear seeds. These seeds are then stored in paper bag off the ground mostly hanging from a height so that the seeds are dried completely.
Storing : The dried bunch of seeds are rubbed in between the fingers to remove their attachment with the stalk or any dried flowers. The seeds need to be completely dry otherwise they can be attacked by moulds. For 100 % satisfaction you can heat the seeds in an oven at 75 degrees C. Put these dried seeds in an air-tight container.
Did you know: Coriander leaves look similar to parsley but are much lighter and tender than parsley but aroma wise, they are worlds apart and one can never be confused between the two.
What are the uses of Coriander essential oil?
Coriander seeds are also used for preparing essential oils (linalool (68%), geraniol, camphene, a-pinene (10%), terpine etc. ) by distilling its steam. This oil is majorly produced in Romania, Russia and Yugoslavia and is known to create a feeling of peace, wellness and tranquility when used in aromatherapy. According to ancient sciences, this oil evokes the earth element in a person and balances the aggressive fire element with its musky and spicy odor. The oil is warm and dry in nature and exceptionally good for digestion. It is enriched with various carminative properties. Coriander essential oil is also effective in gout, measles, and respiratory infections, strengthening the spleen-pancreas-stomach functioning, skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne and dermatitis, flatulence, indigestion, nausea, regulation of menses and is known to support the circulation of Qi-energy.
What are the health benefits of Coriander seeds?
Coriander seeds are rich in various types of fatty acids and volatile essential oils. Some of them include linoleic acid (omega-6), petroselinic acid, and palmitic acid These components give the seeds anti-oxidant and health promoting as well as disease preventing properties.
The seeds are rich in fiber and provide 41.9gm fiber / 100 g seeds. Since coriander provides fiber that is metabolically inert and insoluble, it absorbs water and produces lot of bulk improving the digestive system.
The dietary fibers bind with the bile salts that are produced from cholesterol and limit their absorption by the colon. This helps in lowering serum LDL Cholesterol.
Flavanoids in coriander seeds are known to prevent mucous membrane cancer.
Coriander seeds are enriched with copper, calcium iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and manganese that together improve RBC production, regulate development of organs, sperm generation, nucleic acid synthesis and digestion.
The seeds also contain B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and thiamin.
What are the culinary facts of Coriander?
Coriander seeds are used in any dish for adding mild flavor and blends well with chili and garlic, sausages, flavoring lambs, pork products, meat dishes of Asia and the Caribbean. Greeks used it for flavoring olive while they are also used in vegetables, spice mixes and soups, baking etc. Mexicans use the fresh coriander than the seeds in their salsas.