Fresh coriander leaves are commonly known as the dhania patta, kotmir, kothamalli or kothmira in various Indian languages. Scientifically coriander is known as Coriandrum sativum which is an annual herb from the Apiaceae family. It is native to southern Europe, North Africa to southwestern Asia.
During late 14th century, first attested in English the word coriander derives from the old French word coriander which actually comes from the Latin word coriandrum in turn from Greek koriannon. The leaves are widely referred as coriander leaves, Chinese parsley and the cilantro. The coriander is a soft hairless plant growing to 50 centimetres (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer (5–6 mm) than those pointing towards it (only 1–3 mm long).
On whole all the parts of the coriander plant is edible especially the fresh leaves and dried seeds are most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is common in Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Texan, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine. The fresh coriander leaves are vital ingredients for many of the South Asian foods like the chutneys, garnish on cooked dishes as dal and curries to enhance the taste with its aroma. It is also used in Chinese and Mexican dishes particularly in salsa and guacamole as garnish. They are often added to the dish immediately before serving. The coriander leaves are used in large amounts in Indian and Central Asian recipes and are cooked until the flavor diminishes. The fresh leaves loses its aroma if dried or frozen. The roots of the coriander have a much deeper and intense flavor than the leaves. They are used in many varieties of Asian cuisines and commonly used in Thai dishes such as the soups and curry pastes.
Coriander seems to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B tablets recovered from Pylos refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacture of perfumes, and it appears that it was used in two forms: as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavor of its leaves. Confirmed by archaeological evidence from the same period, large quantities of the species retrieved from an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagroi in Macedonia could point to cultivation of the species at that time. Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.
The leaves are always used fresh. They feature in Spanish, Middle Eastern, Indian, Oriental and South American cookery. They are sprinkled like parsley on cooked dishes, minced or puréed in sauces, soups, sambar and curries, especially bhuna. Both seeds and leaves can be used in salads. In Thailand the root of the coriander plant is used to flavor meats and curries. Fresh coriander leaves along with mint leaves are used in making of the Biryani masala that enhances the flavors and taste.
Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect.
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid. In holistic and traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and as a digestive aid. Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for diabetes. Coriander juice (mixed with turmeric powder or mint juice) is used as a treatment for acne, applied to the face in the manner of toner. Fresh coriander leaves contains vitamins A and C, is a reasonably good source of fiber, and also contains minerals such as potassium and iron.
Fresh coriander leaves is mostly used as a herb and has enormous medicinal properties. In southern India it is used in preparing the rasam that helps in digestion and getting rid of gas. Coriander also seems to have antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties. It seems to help prevent infection of wounds, and can also be ground into a paste to treat rashes.
The nutritional value of 100 g of raw coriander leaves are:
Energy: 95 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 4 g
Dietary fiber: 3 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Protein: 2 g
Vitamin A: equiv. 337 μg (37%)
Vitamin C: 27 mg (45%)