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Coriander

( Originally Published 1933 )



CORIANDUM SATIVUM,, L.

Umbelliferae Annual

Coriander is a dainty and attractive little plant, native to Europe.

Root. It has a slender taproot.

Stem. The stems are cylindrical, smooth, and spreading, growing to fifteen inches in height in my garden, and elsewhere to two or three feet.

Leaf. The leaves are a yellowish-green. The radical ones are rounded, not much divided, and are incised and toothed. The stem leaves, however, are very much divided into thin linear segments. The leaves taste horribly, and since they look very like those of anise, one should be careful not to pick them by mistake for the salads.

Flower. The grayish-white, or slightly rose-tinted florets are borne in sparse umbels of six to nine florets and three or four little umbels combine into one large one at the termination of the stem. The florets are irregular and remind one of the enameled flowers decorating the brooches which adorned the bosoms of our Victorian grandmothers.

Seed. The seeds at first are a shiny yellow-green and striped, and are like hard little balls about one-eighth of an inch long. When they ripen, they are still round, fairly large balls with a point at the tip, ridged, straw-colored and hollow. The unripe seed and foliage have an unpleasant odor. In fact the name of the plant comes from the Greek word koris, which means bedbug because of the resemblance of the scent to that of the beetle. The ripe seed tastes of orange, sharply and pleasantly, with a characteristic quality of its own. It smells as it tastes.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

Seeds of coriander were found in the Egyptian tombs of the Twenty-first Dynasty, and it is one of the bitter herbs ordained to be eaten at Passover. Pliny quotes Varro as authority for sprinkling coriander, lightly powdered with cumin, and vinegar over all kinds of meat to keep it from spoiling in summer.

Ibn Baithar says there was much discussion by the classical and Arabic herbalists as to the medicinal effects of the juice, and that it was cooked with fat hens.

Two German couplets from the Pfalz in which coriander figures are as follows :

"Kimmel un Korjaner 's is' ener wie de anner!"

"Annis, Fenchel, Koriander 's is der E wie der ander!"

Which means "cumin and coriander all taste alike" ; "Anise, fennel, and coriander all taste alike."

It has been grown in China since the fifth century where the seeds are said to confer immortality, and it is now grown in India. It was mentioned by John Josselyn, and appeared in the advertisement of the Boston Evening Post of 1771.

USES

Medicine.' It is not important medicinally, according to the "National Standard Dispensary," except to render other drugs more agreeable to the taste.

Perfume. Small quantities of the oil distilled from the seeds enters into eau de cologne and eau des carmes, but not in perfumes. Before distilling, the seeds should be crushed.

Food. In Egypt, the seeds flavor bread, and elsewhere, sausage. They enter into curry powder, mixed spices, and certain liqueurs. The oil distilled from the dried ripe seeds is a condiment in confectionery, bread, cake, and cordials. Under the name of theobromine it improves the taste of inferior grades of cocoa. The seeds coated with sugar make little sugared balls called coriander comfits which are beloved by the children. In Yucatan, coriander seeds with lemon juice are served with deer steak.

CULTURE

Coriander grows in almost any good garden soil but prefers a warm, rather light one. Planted in May in my garden the fruit ripened the end of July. A second self-sown crop came up early in September. The plants should be sown thinly and if necessary thinned later to four or five inches apart in the rows.

It is cultivated on a large scale in Russia, Germany, and North Africa. One million and a half pounds of coriander seeds were imported into the United States in 1927.

Harvest. The seeds should be picked before they begin to drop off.



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