Coriander, also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.
The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. In Indian cuisine they are called dhania.
The word coriander in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds, rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.
The nutritional profile of coriander seed is different from the fresh stems and leaves, the vitamin content being less than amounts being displayed in the chart above for the plant, with some being absent entirely. However, the seeds do provide significant amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Coriander is native to Southeastern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle East, China, India, and Turkey. It is recognized as cilantro in the west. This herbaceous plant grows up to 2 feet in height with branching stems, featuring deep green soft, hairless, bi or tri-lobed leaves. The mature plant bears small light pink color flowers that subsequently turn into globular or oval-shaped fruits. The seeds measure about 4-6 mm in diameter with central hollow cavity containing two vertical vittae containing some important essential oils.
The seeds are ready for harvest when the plants turn brown, leaves begin to dry and fall. Immature seeds are light green and taste bitter. To harvest, the crop is cut, tied in small bundles, and dried in the sunlight for several days. Traditionally, to separate the seeds, either the sheaves are beaten with stick or a lightweight roller used to wear off the pods.
Coriander seeds contain many plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
The characteristic aromatic flavor of coriander seeds comes from the many fatty acids and essential volatile oils. Some important fatty acids in the dried seeds include petroselinic acid, linoleic acid (omega 6), oleic acid, and palmitic acid. In addition, the seeds contain essential oils such as linalool (68%), a-pinene (10%), geraniol, camphene, terpine etc. Together; these active principles are responsible for digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties of the seeds.
As in other spices, coriander is also rich in of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 41.9 g of fiber. Much of this fiber is metabolically inert insoluble fiber, which helps increase bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and help easing constipation condition.
In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid anti-oxidants, fiber composition of coriander helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers.
The seeds are an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for cell metabolism and red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Unlike other dry spice seeds that lack in vitamin C, coriander seeds contain an ample amount of this anti-oxidant vitamin. 100 g of dry seeds provide 21 mg or 35% of RDI of this vitamin.Furthermore, the seeds indeed are the storehouse of many vital B-complex vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
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