Benefits Of: CORIANDER, CILANTRO

Apiaceae (Carrot family)

Description. Small annual herb, 50-60 cm (2024 in) tall, with a long, slender taproot. Light green lower leaves deeply lobed and upper leaves finely cut with narrow linear lobes. Small white or pink flowers are produced in terminal umbels. Spherical hard fruits, 3 mm (0.12 in) wide with 10 longitudinal ribs.

Benefits Of: CORIANDER, CILANTRO Photo Gallery



Origin and Distribution. Native from southeastern Europe and northern Africa to western Asia (Caucasus region). This versatile plant has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years for both its foliage and the dry fruits used in flavoring. Frequently grown in cool mountain climates of the tropics and as an annual in temperate regions.

Food uses. Fresh leaves, which have a very distinct, strongly aromatic flavor, are used as a culinary spice, especially in Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. They are used to flavor soups, salads, fish and meat dishes, chutneys, curries, sauces, and rice dishes. Cilantro leaves are an essential ingredient in ceviche, a Latin American dish made by marinating diced fish filets, onions, chili peppers, and spices in lime juice. Cilantro leaves are also used in the preparation of typical Mexican sauces as well as guacamole, a dish made from avocados, onions, chilies, and spices.

Whole or ground fruits are used to flavor bakery goods like bread and cookies and for pickling vegetables. In India, the fruits are used to flavor curry dishes. In Europe, the fruits are essential for flavoring certain types of beer and liquors, including gin. The roots of coriander plants are used in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia and China as a cooked vegetable and as a spice ingredient in curry pastes.

Comments. In tropical America, the very similar-tasting leaves of culantro (Eryngium foetidum, p. 290), also in family Apiaceae, are used the same way as coriander leaves.

Description. Herbaceous perennial plant, 60-90 cm (24-36 in) tall, with 7-12 elliptical leaves. Blades are 30-40 cm (12-16 in) long, with leaf sheaths forming a pseudostem. Yellowish-white flowers in erect, central spikes, 10-16 cm (4-6.3 in) long and borne in the axils of the bracts. Flowers open one at a time. Fruits are capsules with numerous tiny seeds. The plant produces a fleshy, branched rhizome 6-12 cm (2.4-5 in) long. The rhizome is bright orange to orange-yellow in color and has an aromatic, spicy, somewhat peppery taste.

Origin and Distribution. Pinpointing the exact origin is difficult, since this important spice has been traded and planted in different parts of tropical and subtropical Asia for several millennia. Turmeric grows best on well-drained soils in humid, tropical conditions, from sea level to about 1,500 m (5,000 ft).

Its use dates back nearly 4,000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where turmeric was the principal spice. It is employed in some Hindu rituals, with the yellow color symbolizing the sun.

Food uses. Dried and ground turmeric is an essential ingredient in curry powder and curry paste, responsible for the characteristic yellow color. In Southeast Asia, fresh, grated turmeric is usually preferred over dried powder. The rhizomes can be seen in almost every market throughout tropical Asia. The spice is used to enhance the yellow color of some mustard varieties, and as a colorant in beverages, sweets, ice cream, bakery goods, cheese, butter, margarine, and cereals.

Comments. Turmeric contains about 5% essential oils and 5% curcumin, the component mainly responsible for the spicy taste and intense color. The plant has a long history as a traditional medicinal plant. Extracts of the rhizome have been used to treat skin and digestive disorders, wounds, and bacterial infections. Much recent scientific research is focused on turmeric for benefits in the treatment of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Mixing turmeric powder with lime juice produces a bright orange paste called kumkum in India, traditionally used in Hinduism for ritual markings on the face.

Description. Perennial herb, 0.6-1 m (2-3.3 ft) tall with drooping, linear, blue-green leaves up to 1 m (3.3 ft) long. Blades are stiff and have a rough surface. Inconspicuous flowers in panicles 40-60 cm (1624 in) long. Fruit a small caryopsis.

Origin and Distribution. Probably native to tropical Asia from India to Indonesia and southern China. Its exact origin is unknown, because this plant has been spread by humans since prehistoric times. Cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical climates.

Food uses. Fresh leaves and leaf bases, which add a subtle, lemonlike aroma to food, are used as a condiment in soups, stews, and curries as well as meat and seafood dishes. Leaves are also sold dried and powdered. Lemon grass is very popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, especially in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand, where the leaves are an important ingredient in many dishes such as the ubiquitous, spicy tom yam soup. In Thailand, freshly ground leaves are added to curry pastes. The leaves are also popular for making tea.

Comments. Leaves contain 0.2-0.5% volatile essential oils, mainly citral but also limonene and nerol, that give it an intense lemonlike aroma. C. nardus and C. winterianus (citronella grass) provide citro-nella oil, which is used as an insect repellent, in the cosmetic industry, and in aromatherapy.

Description. Perennial, herbaceous plant growing 3-4 m (10-13 ft) in height. Alternate, lanceolate leaves 20-90 cm (8-35 in) long by 8-16 cm (3-6.3 in) wide. Long, stalked flowers are produced directly from an underground rhizome and consist of 2 or 3 green sepals and a large labellum, which is white with thin purple streaks. Fruits 3-sided green capsules containing 15-20 aromatic black seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native from India and Sri Lanka to Malaysia and western Indonesia. Cardamom grows naturally in the understory of tropical rainforests and requires a warm, humid climate. Cultivated throughout the tropics.

Food uses. Cardamom seeds, which contain about 8% essential oil and have a sweetly aromatic, pungent taste, are an important culinary spice in the Middle East and North Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia. In Asia it is used to flavor curries and a wide variety of often spicy meat and rice dishes as well as soups, sauces, and vegetable dishes. In the Arabian region, cardamom is traditionally mixed with coffee beans to produce a unique, aromatically flavored coffee. It is also used to flavor black tea. In Europe, the spice is used in bread and cookies such as German Lebkuchen. Throughout the Indian subcontinent, one encounters cardamom-flavored sweets, including gajar halva, a creamy dessert made from milk, grated carrots, palm sugar, and ground cardamom.

Comments. Cardamom fruits have long been used in traditional Indian herbal medicine for their antimicrobial activities. They are used to treat digestive disorders, lack of appetite, asthma, and cramps.

Two spice plants from Southeast Asia that taste similar to cardamom and are often used as substitutes are Siam cardamom (Amomum krarvanh) and Java cardamom (A. compactum).

The leaves of E. foetidum are commonly used as a potherb for seasoning a great variety of dishes, chutneys, sauces, and preserves.

Description. Perennial herb with a fleshy taproot forming a rosette low on the ground. Leaves, oblanceo-late, 10 to 25 cm (4-10 in) long with serrate margins with tiny spines on each tooth, emit a very aromatic smell when crushed. Tiny, white to purple flowers in terminal, umbelliferous inflorescense with 5 to 6 lanceolate bracts with spiny points. Fruits are 2 mm (0.08 in) and split into two parts (mericarp) when ripe.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical America, where it grows from sea level to about 1500 m (5,000 ft). Culantro has been introduced to most tropical countries and has been naturalized in many regions. It is widely grown in Vietnam, Thailand, and India. The culantro plant requires a more tropical climate than its close relative coriander (Coriandrum sativum, p. 286), which is native to Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia and thrives in a temperate or subtropical climate. Culantro plants prefer moist and shady growing conditions.

Food uses. The leaves of E. foetidum are commonly used as a potherb for seasoning a great variety of dishes, chutneys, sauces, and preserves. It is an important ingredient in ceviche, a Latin American dish of diced fish filets marinated in lime juice. In Central America and Mexico culantro leaves give a distinct flavor to the ubiquitous “salsa” sauce, a spicy mix of diced tomatoes, onions, chilies, garlic, and lime juice. Culantro leaves are said to have a stronger, more pungent taste than coriander and keep their taste longer once harvested and dried. In many tropical countries culantro and coriander are sold side by side in local markets.

Comments. The intense aroma of culantro leaves is caused by the high content of essential oils in all plant parts. It is a nutritious plant rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, riboflavine, carotene, iron, and calcium. Culantro is also a home remedy for various ailments. It is used to stimulate the appetite, combat fever, and treat respiratory infections. ingredient in the spicy meat and bean dish chile con carne typical of Mexican cuisine.

Description. Evergreen shrub with pubescent branch-lets, 1.5-2.5 m (5-8 in) tall. Opposite, grayish-green, ovate to elliptic leaves 2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 in) long, with bluntly serrated margins. Crushed leaves emit a strong, very aromatic smell. Small white to yellowish-green flowers are produced in headlike clusters.

Origin and Distribution. Native from southwestern United States south to Costa Rica. Widely cultivated within its natural range. The robust plant grows in tropical and subtropical climates under arid, semiarid, and humid conditions.

Food uses. The aromatic leaves are used fresh or dried as a culinary herb of great importance in Central American cuisine. The leaves, which have a stronger, sweeter aroma than Eurasian oregano (Origanum vulgare), are used to flavor a great variety of foods, including pizza, grilled meats, soups, stews, salad dressings, and dishes based on tomato, eggplant, and squash. Mexican oregano is often combined with garlic, chilies, and onions. It is an essential ingredient in the spicy meat and bean dish chile con carne typical of Mexican cuisine. Dried leaves are used to flavor vinegar and olive oil.

Comments. Herb teas prepared from the leaves are used in traditional Central American medicine to treat respiratory infections and as a stimulant. The genus Lippia is named after Augustin Lippi, an Italian naturalist and botanist born in the late seventeenth century. The plant is also known as redbrush lippia.

Description. Medium-sized tree with a thick, succulent trunk and drooping branches, 8-12 m (26-39 ft) tall. Bipinnately compound leaves 3060 cm (12-24 in) long. Elliptical to obovate leaflets 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) long by 0.3-0.6 cm (0.12-0.24 in) wide. White to cream-colored, aromatic, large flowers, 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 in) across, are produced in panicles. Pendent seedpods 30-50 cm (12-20 in) long contain 3 rows of winged seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to the foothills of the Himalaya mountains in northwestern India and parts of Pakistan. The tree grows naturally in semiarid, tropical, or subtropical habitats.

Food uses. Immature fruits, commonly called “drumsticks,” are widely used as a vegetable in India and also in other parts of Asia and Africa. They are chopped, boiled, or fried and used in stir-fries, curries, soups, and Indian and Sri Lankan vegetable stews called sambar. The protein- and mineral-rich leaves are eaten as a boiled, spinachlike vegetable or used as garnish on various dishes. The roots, which have a spicy flavor like horseradish, are used as a spice in sauces and dips. The seeds of mature pods are eaten cooked as a vegetable or roasted as nuts. The high-quality seed oil is used for cooking and as a salad oil.

Comments. The family Moringaceae consists of only 1 genus with 10 species distributed in arid and semiarid regions of Africa and Asia. The seed oil of the closely related species M. peregrina is used in the production of cosmetics and skin-care products.

Description. Small, evergreen tree 4-6 m (13-20 ft) tall. Alternate leaves pinnately compound with 1121 leaflets, each 2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 in) long. The leaves are very aromatic with a strong sweetish-savory smell when crushed. Fragrant flowers white. Fruits are reddish-black berries with poisonous seeds.

Origin and Distribution. The tree is native to tropical and subtropical regions of India and Sri Lanka, but is cultivated throughout warm regions of Asia for its fragrant leaves. Indian migrants and workers have taken this tree in recent times to South Africa, Malaysia, and other tropical and subtropical countries around the world.

Food uses. Curry tree leaves are extensively used in Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. They are used similar to bay leaves as seasoning, mainly in the preparation of curries. In India, the leaves are used fresh or fried in oil or butter with meals like lentil or vegetable curry. In Sri Lanka, the leaves form an essential part of chicken and beef curries.

Comments. The curry tree should not be confused with curry powder or paste, which is a mixture of varying composition of coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, chili peppers, cardamom, and many other ingredients like ginger or black pepper, depending on the recipe. The term curry is also widely applied to many different dishes of Southeast Asia, including vegetable stews in India, any food cooked in coconut milk in Thailand, and spicy Sri Lankan dishes with meat, hot chili peppers, and toasted spices.

Curry leaves, which are rich in essential oil, are usually used fresh, because they lose their distinctive aromatic flavor within days after drying. The botanical name M. koenigii refers to two botanists of the eighteenth century: the Swede Johan Andreas Murray (1740-1791) and the German Gerhard Koenig (1728-1785).

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