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October 2000 Issue
Coriander -- coriandrum sativum
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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Sometimes known as Cilantro or Chinese parsley, this hardy herb looks a lot like flat leafed or Italian parsley. One way to tell the difference for sure is to rub the leaves, they give off a distinct aroma which some find offensive; kind of a cross between lemon peel and sage. Strangely enough the smell wears off in cooking or drying leaving only the distinctive taste.

Coriander grows naturally on the shores of the Mediterranean and for centuries has been cultivated in Asia. This is one of those herbs that does equally well in a sunny spot in your garden or in pots on your window sill. Sow the seeds in early May and you will have usable leaves in relatively short order. However, unlike most herbs, it doesn't do well for extended harvesting, quickly producing its lacy white flowers and going to seed. If a longer harvest is what you're looking for, then it's best to sow the seeds in succession every three weeks or so, much as you would radish or leaf lettuce. It can grow to be about 24 inches in height and looks very pretty as part of an herb border.

The Ancient Egyptians were among the first to study the possible uses of herbs and can be credited with the discovery of many culinary, medicinal and aromatic uses. Herbs were also placed in tombs to accompany the soul on its journey into and through the afterlife and they were placed on altars as offerings to the gods. Cilantro was one of the herbs offered to the gods in temple ceremonies; and it was made into poultices for the treatment of broken bones. A massage with a coriander essential oil is said to have a stimulating effect in fighting off lethargy and tiredness.

With the ever-growing popularity of Latin American cuisine, many North American cooks are becoming more and more familiar with cilantro. In even the smallest Mexican taverna you will find saucers of essential seasonings on the tables at all times. Coarse salt, wedges of green limons, salsa picante and a mixture of chopped onions and cilantro. No self-respecting taco is considered complete without a dash of cilantro and onion and a splash of salsa.


Fresh Coriander Chutney

Serve this with Indian curries.
  • 2 cups, well packed, of fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped, in 1/2 cup batches
  • 1 cup lemon juice (or vinegar) in 1/4 cup batches
  • salt to taste
  • 2 or 3 chili peppers, stems removed, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onion
  • grated coconut (optional)
Blend 1/2 cup batches of coriander with 1/4 cup batches of lemon juice, adding a bit of water if necessary to keep it smooth. When all the herb has been processed, add salt, chili, ginger, green onion and coconut. Stir to combine well.


Avocado Salad with Coriander

Serve this as an appetizer or a vegetable course.
  • 2 large ripe avocados, peeled, seed removed and diced
  • 350gr tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 bunches green onions, sliced
  • couple of dashes of Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • lime slices for garnish
Combine the tomatoes, avocado and green onion in a bowl.

Add the Tabasco, the lemon and lime juices, oil and coriander in a separate bowl. Whisk together to blend well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the tomato, avocado and green onion mixture.

Garnish with lime slices and serve.

  • Yields: 4 - 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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