(Coriandrum sativum) Also known as cilantro.
If ever there was an essential herb (in its fresh green state) and an
omnipresent spice (when the seeds are dried and ground), this is it.
Indigenous to the Mediterranean and southern Europe, it has been used
for a very long time by the Egyptians and the Israelites before the
All parts of the plant are used, even the
roots which are an essential in Thai cooking. Pounded with garlic and
peppercorns, they give Thai food its typical flavor. In red curry
pastes, it is the coriander root which contributes its flavor without
adding an undesirable green color to the mixture. In Indian cooking the
fresh herb is thrown liberally into and onto almost every dish.
Strangely enough, it is not very popular in Sri Lanka.
When purchasing, buy coriander herb fresh.
Dried, bottled or frozen coriander herb is not as good. If storing it,
place the roots in no more than 1 cm of water in a container of suitable
size. Put a supermarket carry bag over the bunch, tie the handles
together around the container to create a little greenhouse, and store
it in the refrigerator. Do not wash coriander before putting it away and
it will keep for two weeks at least.
To use, just remove only what you will need,
and store the rest. Wash the coriander herb shortly before using and if
there are more roots than you need for one recipe, they may be frozen
for making Thai curry paste. Do not chop coriander too finely as it will
darken and lose its fresh color.
For medicinal, its use was recorded around
1550 BC for medicinal as well as culinary purposes, as a tonic, cough
medicine and stomachic.