Cilantro is the leaf of the herb most know as coriander.
Native to the Mediterranean and Caucasian regions, Coriander is a sparsely, feathery-leaved annual that is known historically as far back as 1500 BCE as a medicine and spice in the Mediterranean regions. In Egypt the seeds were found in King Tut's tomb (ca 1300 BCE).
Grown commercially in India, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Argentina and on a smaller scale in the state of Kentucky for use in the liquor industry, the best seed is said to come from Egypt. Introduced into Chinese cuisine and medicine about 600 CE. Coriander was introduced into the United States with the first settlers before 1670.
The entire plant has an unpleasant odor until the seeds mature which take on a pleasant spicy aroma. The unpleasant odor gave rise to its name taken from the Greek 'koris' meaning bedbug.
Cilantro is more than just tasty, it's also antimicrobial. The essential oils in cilantro extract are especially effective against Listeria bacteria, and also slow the growth of E. coli and Salmonella. Combining cilantro with onion or garlic increases its ability to keep food fresh.
Cilantro and Coriander as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
Cilantro has been used to settle upset stomach in Latin American herbal healing traditions.
Currently, coriander is not used for anything medically more than for appetite loss and indigestion, and that is usually in the form of coriander water:
Place a handful of crushed seeds into a quart of water; let stand; add a quarter pound of sugar; when sugar is melted and the taste of the seeds well taken up by the water, strain and drink.
Cilantro/Coriander is part of the "bitter herbs" of Jewish Passover.
Culinary Uses of Cilantro
- Cilantro and Coriander leaves are used in salads and as a condiment while the roots are powdered and used as a condiment with meat by the Native Americans of New Mexico and Arizona.
- The seed oil is used commercially to flavor hard candy, fruits, sausages, meats, baked goods, cheese, pickles, condiments, gin, and vermouth.
- The seeds are used as flavoring in the making of alcoholic beverages such as gin and some liqueurs.
- The young leaves (cilantro) are used in meat dishes, salads, sauces, and soups and are famous in Mexican, Chinese, and East Indian cuisines.
- In Ethiopia the leaves are added to bread, sauces and tea.
- Cilantro/Coriander has also been used to flavor pates, fish, poultry, game, lamb, pork, vegetables, cakes, cookies, gingerbread, chutneys, and sauces.
- In some parts of the world one or two crushed seeds are used to flavor coffee.
- Seeds are used whole or ground as a seasoning in curries, pickling, sweets, and baked goods. Roots are also used to make curries. When making gingerbread or fruitbread add 1/2 teaspoon of ground Coriander seed to the recipe.
- Coriander acts as a thickener, while also giving a dish a nutty flavor.
- You can use dried coriander leaves in coarse powder form in vegetable curry or chutney if fresh are not available.
Seafood Marinade: Combine 1/2 teaspoon of ground Coriander seeds, 2 ground allspice berries, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and the juice of 1 lemon; marinate the seafood for 30 minutes, then cook.
"In February, in the New of the Moon, sow Borage, Coriander, Marjoram, Radish, Rosemary and Sorrel." - Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1683
In the Middle Ages, Coriander was used to make a love potion. Is also said to be the traditional center of Jawbreaker candies.
Add coriander seeds to wine or mead to make a love potion. Use the seeds for healing, especially of headaches.
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