Coriander





(Coriandrum sativum, Linn.), "a plant of little beauty and

of easiest culture," is a hardy annual herb of the natural order

Umbelliferae. The popular name is derived from the generic, which comes

from the ancient Greek Koris, a kind of bug, in allusion to the

disagreeable odor of the foliage and other green parts. The specific

name refers to its cultivation in gardens. Hence the scientific name

declares it to be the cultivated buggy-smelling plant.



Coriander has been cultivated from such ancient times that its land of

nativity is unknown, though it is said to be a native of southern Europe

and of China. It has been used in cookery and of course, too, in

medicine; for, according to ancient reasoning, anything with so

pronounced and unpleasant an odor must necessarily possess powerful

curative or preventive attributes! Its seeds have been found in Egyptian

tombs of the 21st dynasty. Many centuries later Pliny wrote that the

best quality of seed still came to Italy from Egypt. Prior to the Norman

conquest in 1066, the plant was well known in Great Britain, probably

having been taken there by the early Roman conquerors. Before 1670 it

was introduced into Massachusetts. During this long period of

cultivation there seems to be no record or even indication of varieties.

In many temperate and tropical countries it has become a frequent weed

in cultivated fields.



Description.--From a cluster of slightly divided radical leaves

branching stems rise to heights of 2 to 2-1/2 feet. Toward their summits

they bear much divided leaves, with linear segments and umbels of small

whitish flowers, followed by pairs of united, hemispherical,

brownish-yellow, deeply furrowed "seeds," about the size of a sweet pea

seed. These retain their vitality for five or six years. The seeds do

not have the unpleasant odor of the plant, but have a rather agreeable

smell and a moderately warm, pungent taste.



Cultivation.--Coriander, a plant of the easiest culture, does best in

a rather light, warm, friable soil. In Europe it is often sown with

caraway, which, being a biennial and producing only a rosette of leaves

at the surface of the ground the first year, is not injured when the

annual coriander is cut. The seed is often sown in the autumn, though

spring sowing is perhaps in more favor. The rows are made about 15

inches apart, the seeds dropped 1 inch asunder and 1/2 inch deep and the

plantlets thinned to 6 or 8 inches. Since the plants run to seed

quickly, they must be watched and cut early to prevent loss and

consequent seeding of the ground. After curing in the shade the seed is

threshed as already described (see page 28). On favorable land the yield

may reach or even exceed 1,500 pounds to the acre.



Uses.--Some writers say the young leaves of the plant are used in

salads and for seasoning soups, dressings, etc. If this is so, I can

only remark that there is no accounting for tastes. I am inclined to

think, however, that these writers are drawing upon their imagination or

have been "stuffed" by people who take pleasure in supplying

misinformation. The odor is such as to suggest the flavor of "buggy"

raspberries we sometimes gather in the fence rows. Any person who

relishes buggy berries may perhaps enjoy coriander salad or soup.



Only the seed is of commercial importance. It is used largely in making

comfits and other kinds of confectionery, for adding to bread, and,

especially in the East, as an ingredient in curry powder and other

condiments. In medicine its chief use now is to disguise the taste of

disagreeable drugs. Distillers use it for flavoring various kinds of

liquors.





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