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Coriandrum sativum (Umbelliferae)

Coriander or Cilantro as it is also known is no stranger to any cook. Wherever you may find yourself, if you cook, you can always find a way to make use of cilantro. Coriander in some cultures is also known as Dhania or Danya, Koljana, etc.

Coriander has been used as a medicinal and culinary herb for more than two thousand (2,000) years in all areas right around the world. Coriander is mentioned in the Ebers papyrus which dates back to approximately 1500 BC, and it is also mentioned in Sanskrit texts as well as in the Bible where it is actually used as one of the bitter Passover herbs. Coriander is also mention in China, Ancient China that is, where Coriander is used during the Han Dynasty.

The whole Coriander plant has a pungent aroma and can be used in cooking. The Coriander broader lower, young leaves are the part that is usually referred to as Dhania or Danya and is used in Indian and Malaysian cuisine. The Coriander roots are often used as a tasty vegetable. The Coriander seeds are used in curries, chevra, chutneys, soups, sauces, vinegars and vegetable dishes. The Coriander flowers, which are a light mauve shade in color, is typically used in salads, stir fries, fruit salads and stewed fruit.

In ancient Rome, Coriander was used to preserve meat. They combined the Coriander and Cilantro seeds with cumin seeds and vinegar to act as the preservative. (Here we are reminded of Jerkey and Biltong which is essentially dried meat made using a blend of those spices.)

Apart from being such a versatile little herb, Coriander is so easy to grow. It is a simple process and very rewarding too. The home gardener can easily achieve three to four crops in any one season before the first winter frost sets in. A good sunny position with light, well-drained soil is all that is required to grow your own Coriander. Apply a good dressing of compost and a good watering. Watering should be done about twice a week to prevent the Coriander seedlings from drying out. The seeds must be sown in situ. Provide some protection for your Coriander seedlings by applying a thin layer of mulch or even dry leaves until then little plants are strong enough to withstand the full sun. Coriander can grow up to 60 cm or about 24 inches in height. Make sure that you have a continuous crop by sowing Coriander seeds every two weeks.

A word of caution though; if you are into organic gardening and you prefer making use of companion planting, be sure not to plant Coriander next to fennel. The Coriander will inhibit seed formation in the fennel. You can however feel free to plant Coriander next to aniseed because it will speed up the aniseed’s growth. Furthermore the Coriander flowers will surely attract bees to your garden.

How to use Coriander/Cilantro

Culinary Uses

  • Coriander or Cilantro seeds can be used in so many dishes – both sweet and savoury. Curries, chutneys, cakes, biscuits and marmalade all can be made with Coriander as one of its ingredients. Soups and vegetables also benefit from a little Coriander or Cilantro – however use sparingly as the flavor can be quite strong.
  • Make your own mixed spice. Use Coriander seeds in equal amounts to cinnamon and nutmeg and half quantity of cloves. Mix well.
  • Use the Coriander leaves in salads, sauces and meat dishes.

Medicinal Uses

  • Is your stomach troublesome? Do you have colic, flatulence, digestive upsets, gripes and common bloatedness? Then you definitely need Coriander or Cilantro. This herb acts as a superb antispasmodic and is also a great remedy for anxiety attacks and tension. In short Coriander or Cilantro is a great digestive tonic.
  • Does your breath smell after eating garlic? Coriander or Cilantro will clean your breath after eating garlic. All you need to do is to chew a Coriander or Cilantro flowers or a few seeds.
  • Suffering from rheumatic aches and pains? Brew a Coriander tea by pouring one cup of boiling water over either ¼ cup of fresh Coriander or Cilantro leaves and flowers, or one teaspoon full of dried Coriander or Cilantro seeds. Leave it to stand for about 5 minutes to steep and then strain the Coriander or Cilantro tea. Sip it slowly as a remedy for stomach, breath and rheumatic aches and pains. Alternatively you can also make use of essential oil of Coriander or Cilantro and add it to rheumatic ointments, or crushed Coriander or Cilantro seeds (warmed) can be applied directly to the afflicted areas to relieve rheumatic pains and aches.
  • Do you have a rash that is inflamed and itchy from possible insect bites, aching joints, or just need to cool down? Well, then Coriander or Cilantro lotion is just the remedy. Boil one cup of fresh Coriander or Cilantro leaves, flowers and twigs OR if there are no fresh green plants available, three tablespoons of Coriander or Cilantro seeds; in one liter of fresh water for 15 minutes. Strain and pour into a sterilized bottle. When necessary soak a cloth in the lotion and bind over the afflicted area on your skin.

Cosmetic Uses

  • Oily, spotty skin a problem - no need to worry when you grow Coriander or Cilantro in your home garden. Just mix half a cup of Coriander or Cilantro flowers with a cup full of oats and two cups of warm water. Leave it overnight in a thermos and apply to your skin for 10 minutes. Rinse off with tepid water.

Other Uses

  • You can always add some Coriander or Cilantro seed to potpourri .
  • Want to have an organic insect repellent? Coriander or Cilantro also makes for an insect repelling spray. Just use half a bucket of Coriander or Cilantro leaves, flowers and stems to half a bucket of basil, southernwood OR Tagetes (Marigold) leaves and pour over one bucket of boiling water. Leave to stand overnight, strain and add two cups of soap powder. Voila, there you have an insect repelling spray
NOTE: Be careful of the powerful effects of herbs. Use herbs in small doses and stop taking them if you feel side effects. Consult your doctor before taking herbs if you are unsure about their effects.