Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) is an annual herb. When ripe, the seeds have a distinctive sweet musty aroma that has been valued over the centuries. They look like tiny beads with yellowish brown color and a distinctive fragrance and a pleasant and mildly pungent taste. The coriander plant yields both the fresh green herb and the spice seed. Green coriander (also called cilantro) is probably one of the most commonly-used flavorings in the world. It is used in Middle Eastern, southern Asian, as well as Latin American cuisines. Coriander seed is used in whole or ground forms.
In India, coriander goes into several curries and spice mixes. It is used to flavor liqueurs in Russia and Scandinavia, as well as being an important flavoring agent in gin production. The fruits are also used (both whole and ground) in baking, sausages, pickles, candies, sauces and soups. Cilantro and coriander are fairly recent arrivals to the American kitchen. Coriander is the more familiar, used in gingerbread, cookies, yeast breads, sausages, stews, and chicken dishes.
Although cilantro and coriander are most often associated with the cuisines of Mexico and Asia, the herb originated in the southern reaches of the Mediterranean. Coriander has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back 3000 years. The ancient Hebrews originally used cilantro root as the bitter herb in the symbolic Passover meal. The Romans themselves used coriander with cumin and vinegar as a preservative which they rubbed into meat. Ancient Greeks and Romans took it to Europe and the Arabs introduced it to India and China. Coriander is good for the digestive system, reducing flatulence, stimulating the appetite and aiding the secretion of gastric juices.