Coriander: A Herb that You Either Love or Hate!
Coriander is a zesty herb that belongs to the carrot family. Known as cilantro in the US and Mediterranean region, coriander in Asia, and Chinese parsley in China, this herb is a wholly edible plant. Leaves, stems, roots and seeds, we can use it all. However, the seeds have a different flavour and aroma and hence cannot be substituted for the leaf and vice versa.
It is a unique herb that you would either love or hate. However, this is one of the most widely-eaten herbs, the world over. Be it Thai, Mexican, Indian, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Chinese, East European or North African – all cuisines use this herb generously. This herb found its way to the Americas only in the 17th century, when the Europeans took it there. The reason why cilantro has got two camps is that, while its fans find it lemony, bright and tangy, its opponents find its taste and smell soapy! This great divide has been attributed to various factors, one of them being genetic.
Cilantro produces petite flowers that have a whitish or pink tinge. The clusters are commonly called umbels. They are very fragile and decorative to look at, but the downside is they have no aroma to match. Flowers are mostly visible during spring and summer. They are to be used fresh and not in dried form. They have a very mild taste and a cooling effect on spicy dishes. Of late, European and American chefs have been trying to work on this subtle quality of the flower, to tap its potential.
A very interesting fact about cilantro is that apart from being a good source of antioxidants, it also prompts people to use less salt and thereby reduce their sodium intake. This leaf is packed with vitamins too. A quarter cup of fresh cilantro is said to contain 5% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 2% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Nutritionally, cilantro is considered to be a good source of lipids. It contains linalool, an essential oil. It has also been used traditionally for its anti-epileptic, anti-depressant, and anti-inflammatory effects.
A word of caution - if you find a recipe that calls for ‘coriander’, make sure to confirm whether it is the leaves, stalk, or seeds they require – because each one has a different flavour to add!