The coriander plant is an annual member of the parsley family and is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It grows to a height of 2 – 3 feet with the characteristic finely branched flower groupings at stem ends. Before ripening, the small round fruits of the coriander plant possess an unpleasant odor. It was this “buggy” odor that helped to name the spice originating from the Greek word koris meaning bedbug. After ripening, however, the coriander seed is delicately fragrant and has a wide variety of uses. Also useful are the leaves of the coriander plant known as Chinese parsley or cilantro.
Historically, coriander was used as early as 1000 B.C. in the tombs of ancient Egyptians and has continued to carry ritual and religious significance. Due to Biblical references to coriander, Hebrews ate the spice during Passover. According to the Chinese, those who consumed the seeds while in a spiritual trance achieved immortality. In the Middle Ages, it was used as an aphrodisiac in love potions for humans or in animal feed during mating season.
What is it used for today?
The flavor of coriander has been described as “frankfurter and bologna-like,” so prevalent is its usage in these seasonings. This versatile spice may also be included in mixed pickling spices as well as several confections and baked goods.
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