Botanically, the herb belongs to the family of Apiaceae, of the genus: Coriandrum. Scientific name: Coriandrum sativum.
Cilantro herb is native to Mediterranean and Asia Minor (Turkey) regions. This perennial plant requires well-draining fertile soil supplemented with warm summer climates to flourish. It grows 1 to 2 feet in height and features dark green, hairless, soft leaves that are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on near the flowering stems. The leaves and stem have slightly citrus flavor. It bears umbels of small white or light pink flowers in midsummer, followed by round-oval shaped aromatic seeds.
Coriander seeds, used as spice, are round-to-oval in shape, yellowish brown in color with vertical ridges and have a flavor that is aromatic, sweet and citrus, but also slightly peppery.
Health benefits of cilantro (coriander)
- Cilantro herb contains no cholesterol; however, it is rich in antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which help reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” while increasing HDL or “good cholesterol” levels.
- Its leaves and seeds contain many essential volatile oils such as borneol, linalool, cineole, cymene, terpineol, dipentene, phellandrene, pinene and terpinolene.
- The leaves and stem tips are also rich in numerous anti-oxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin and epigenin.
- The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- It is also rich in many vital vitamins, including folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-A, beta carotene, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant. 100 g of cilantro leaves provide 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C.
- It provides 6748 IU of vitamin-A per 100 g, about 225% of recommended daily intake. Vitamin-A, an important fat soluble vitamin and anti-oxidant, is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) helps body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K; provide about 258% of DRI. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
- Coriander seed oil has been found application in many traditional medicines as analgesic, aphrodisiac, anti-spasmodic, deodorant, digestive, carminative, fungicidal, lipolytic (weight loss), stimulant and stomachic.
Wonderful! Cilantro leaves provide only 23 calories/100 g, but their phyto-nutrients profile is no less than any high-calorie food item; be it nuts, pulses or cereals or meat group.
This humble backyard herb provides (% of RDA/100g):
15% of folates,
11% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
45% of vitamin C,
225% of vitamin A,
258% of vitamin K,
22% of iron and
18% of manganese.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.52 g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.80 g||6.5%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.570 mg||11%|
|Vitamin A||6748 IU||225%|
|Vitamin C||27 mg||45%|
|Vitamin E||2.50 mg||17%|
|Vitamin K||310 mcg||258%|
Selection and storage
Fresh cilantro leaves as well as the seeds are readily available in the market and herb stores all around the year. If permitted, buy fresh leaves over the dried herb since it is superior in flavor and rich in many vital vitamins and anti-oxidants like beta carotene, vitamin-C, and folates. While buying, look for vibrant green color leaves and firm stems. It should be free from any kind of spoilage or yellowing.
Try to buy fresh leaves from the local organic farms since the herb has an intense refreshing flavor in addition to that it will assure you of superior quality and free from pesticide residues.
Once at home, wash in clean water, discard roots, old or any bruised leaves. Fresh cilantro (coriander) should be stored in the refrigerator in a zip pouch or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Use as early as possible since it loses flavor and nutrients quickly if kept for longer periods. Coriander seeds as well as its oil are available in the markets. The seeds are basically used as spice.
- The herb parts (leaves, root, and stem) of the cilantro (coriander) plant have been found to have anti-septic and carminative properties.
- The herb contains many phytochemical compounds; phenolic flavonoid antioxidants like quercitin and essential oils have found application in many traditional medicines as analgesic, aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, flatus-relieving (carminative), depurative, deodorant, digestive, fungicidal, lipolytic, stimulant and stomachic. (Medical-disclaimer).
Fresh leaves should be washed thoroughly in the water in order to remove sand and dirt and to rid off any residual pesticides. While in the kitchen, it is generally used just before preparing recipes in order to keep the fragrance and aromatic flavor intact.
- Cilantro (coriander) leaves has been used in preparation of many popular dishes in Asian and east European cuisine since ancient times. When added in combination with other household herbs and spices, it enhances flavor and taste of vegetable, chicken, fish and meat dishes.
- The herb has also been used in the preparation of soups, and sauces. Popular Mediterranean cilantro pesto, prepared by using fresh cilantro, red pepper, garlic cloves, olive oil, pumpkin seeds with few drops of lemon juie, is a great addition on pasta, in sandwiches or as a marinade to fish, poultry…etc dishes.
- Freshly chopped and sautéed coriander leaves are a great addition to green salad.
- Coriander seed powder is one of the main ingredients used in the preparation of curry powder.
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Source: Nutrition & You