The seed-like fruits of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum), native to southern Europe, have been used since Biblical times by Egyptians and Hebrews as a purging agent for flatulence, constipation and delayed menstruation; a supportive against intermittent and puerperal fever, apoplexy and palsy. Sugar-coated coriander comfits were once highly prized as an aphrodisiac. Meat was preserved in coriander vinegar.
Both the green feathery leaves and the spherical seeds of cilantro are indispensable in the kitchen. Bunches of cilantro, which looks like flat-leaved parsley are sold in many markets, especially where there is an Asian or Greek community. The seed (coriander) is sold both whole and ground, and is a major ingredient in curry powder.
Coriander seed was mentioned in the Bible, where it was likened to manna, but its use goes back much farther in time. The herb was used both in cooking and health in the ancient European cultures, and in South America, India, and China many thousands of years ago. The Romans took it to Britain, where it was much used in Elizabethan times.
The plant grows to a height of 24 inches, with a spread of 9 inches. The bright green leaves are fan-shaped and become more feathery toward the top of the plant. The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer, are small and white, formed in umbel-like clusters. The pale brown roots are fibrous and tapering, shaped rather like a carrot.
A hardy annual, the plant is easy to grow from seed planted outdoors in late spring. It likes a light, well-drained soil and plenty of sun. Harvest the seed as soon as it starts to ripen, and hang the stems in paper bags to dry the seed.
How to Use
The leaves do not dry well, but may be frozen. They are used in curries or ground to a paste with olive oil as a covering for roast lamb in marinades. Cilantro has no cosmetic value but the essential oil is used extensively in the perfume industry and in powders, soaps, and toilet waters. The sweet and musky essential oil is expressed from the green berry whilst the dried can be used to help support scenting dusting powder.
Health-wise,the leaves are rich in oils giving the herb strong digestive properties and the ability to help stimulate the appetite. Cilantro has been used against bronchial congestion and has good antifungal and disinfectant actions.
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Hot tea brewing method: Bring freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 tea bag for each cup into the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the pot, cover and let steep for 2-4 minutes. Pour into your cup; add milk and natural sweetener to taste.
Iced tea brewing method: (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 5 tea bags into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea itself. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into the serving pitcher straining the tea bags. Add ice and top-up with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste.
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