Coriander is a member of the Apiaceae family and the only species of the genus. It occurs naturally in the Mediterranean area and south-west Asia, but is cultivated as a spice and as a medicinal plant in many countries.
It is an annual plant that grows to 70-100 cm in height. The leaves may be used fresh as a condiment, but the seeds are usually dried. Coriander is an ingredient in garam masala and sometimes in curry powder. The seeds are also used in the production of perfumes.
The flowers are small and white or pale pink. The leaves are finely-lobed. People often find the smell of the leaves, flowers and fresh fruits unpleasant. The name is said to originate from the Greek word “koris”, meaning bed bug, which is said to have a similar odour. When the fruits are dried, their flavour is mild and aromatic.
In ancient times it was used to flavour food and wine and it was brought to the Nordic countries by monks during the middle ages. In China, coriander was thought to promote eternal life.