Coriandrum sativum L.
Family : Umbelliferae
Other names: Chinese parsley
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
is an umbelliferous annual plant of the parsley family, native to
the eastern Mediterranean region and southern Europe and is found
in many other parts of the world. It is valued for the dry ripe
fruits, called coriander seeds and also the fresh green leaves called
cilantro. The herb is produced in Morocco, Romania, Mexico, Argentina,
the People's Republic of China, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt,
India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Poland, Syria, the United States, the
USSR, and Yugoslavia. It is one of the oldest recorded spice, mentioned
in ancient Sanskrit texts and in Exodus. Seeds have been found in
the tombs of the Pharaohs. The name originated from koris, the Greek
word for a bed bug, so given because of the similarity between the
smell of coriander leaves and the offending bug.
Coriander is a rigid, strong-smelling
annual with pronounced taproot, and slender branching stems up to
60 cm. Reaching a height of 1 meter, the adromonoecious plant flowers
in July and August. The plant has ferny, pinnately or ternately
decompound leaves and produces compound umbels with small white
or pinkish flowers that are attractive to bees. The seed capsules
are round red-brown which are aromatic when ripe.
The reported life zone of coriander
is 7 to 27 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3
to 2.6 meters and a soil pH of 4.9 to 8.3. Coriander thrives in
full sun and grows best in deep fertile loams with adequate drainage.
The plant is tolerant to cold, heat and drought stresses. The seeds
should be planted either early in spring or late in fall in rows
3 feet apart at the rate of 12 to 15 to the foot and covered to
a depth of about half an inch. The plants need not be thinned, and
no special care is necessary other than regular cultivation for
Since seeds shatter soon after maturity
(about 90 days from planting), timeliness of harvest and weather
conditions greatly influence yield. The plants should be cut for
seed when the fruits have turned brown. Young, immature fruit have
a characteristic disagreeable odor and lack the desirable spicy
aroma associated with mature fruit. Harvesting in the early morning,
while the dew is on the plant, reduces seed loss caused by shattering.
The seed is dried and stored for later use.
Aroma and flavour
The pleasing flavour of the coriander
fruit is not thoroughly developed until it is completely dry. The
whole plant may be tied in bundles or spread on screens to dry.
As soon as dry, the fruits should be separated by threshing and
winnowing. The clean seed should be stored in bags or closed containers.
For essential oil extraction, the
seed is ground immediately before distillation to increase oil yield
and minimize distillation time. The essential oil content of dried
fruit ranges from 0.1 to 1.5% and the oil contains d-linalool (also
known as coriandrol), camphor, pinenes, camphene, sabinene, myrcene,
terpinenes, limonene, and other constituents. Coriander fruit also
contain a fixed or fatty oil. Coriander leaf or cilantro contains
about 4% volatiles, on a wet leaf basis, primarily 2-decenal and
Coriander seeds, available whole
or ground or as extracts, are used primarily as a flavouring agent
in the food industry or as spice in the home kitchen for breads,
cheeses, curry, fish, meats, sauces, soups, pastries, and confections.
It is often used in Mexican cooking and is a component of chilli
powders. Coriander is essential in Indian cooking and is a major
ingredient in curry powders and other Indian spice mixes such as
garam masalas. Whole coriander is used in pickling spices, for meats
and pickles. The seeds are also used to flavor alcoholic beverages,
such as gin, and in liqueurs. They are used as a flavouring for
bread, and yield an essential oil for soaps and perfumes. The fruit
has been used to flavor cigarette tobacco. Fresh leaves and shoots
are especially popular where the plant is produced locally for use
as a flavoring agent in salads, soups and stews. The root supplies
a stronger flavouring, and is often cooked as a vegetable in South
As a medicinal plant, coriander has
been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, stimulant, and stomachic.
Coriander has also exhibited hypoglycemic activity. At one time,
coriander was used in love potions and considered to be an aphrodisiac.
Chinese herbal medicine includes the use of coriander for measles,
stomachache, nausea, hernia, and as a tonic. Coriander seed oil
has antibacterial properties and is used for treating colic, neuralgia
and rheumatism. The oil also counteracts unpleasant odours in pharmaceutical
preparations and tobacco. It is used in perfumes, liqueurs and gin.
The linalool in coriander oil is known to cause contact dermatitis.
Seeds are sometimes used as a flavoring agent to improve taste in
other medicinal preparations. The seeds are ground into a paste
for application to skin and mouth ulcers.