Coriander – The Mixed Message Herb and Spice
Coriander is the plant that produces the spice and cilantro the herb. The leaves, stems and roots are called cilantro and the dried and ground seeds are coriander. The family is Apiaceae also known as the parsley family. The leaves which are cilantro have a grassy insect-like smell and a lemony clean taste, which is probably why you either like or hate cilantro because of the smell of the leaves.
The plant is native to Southern Europe and The Middle East.
The seeds of the plant have been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, and known to the Greeks, Romans and ancient Hebrews. The seeds were spread to Britain by the Romans on their military campaigns. The seeds were spread to the Americas by the early colonists and are favored in Mexico and Peru.
The plant should be brought fresh and used fresh, once dried there is almost no aroma, but the flavor can be released when sprinkled over hot food. The ground spice should only be purchased in small quantities since the usefulness of the spice evaporates quickly after grinding.
The leaves in the form of cilantro are used in Asian, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, North African and Peruvian cooking. The flavor is delicate and disappears with prolonged cooking so should not be added until cooking is nearly complete, the last few minutes.
For additional information about coriander click on the link to Wikipedia.org
For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:
• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill
• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors
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