What are Coriander and Cumin?

Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum) is an herb that is used a lot in Asian, Mediterranean African and Chinese cooking. The leaves and seeds are both used to give flavour as well as to provide a garnish. Coriander leaves are called cilantro in North America.

Coriander leaves lose their flavour when heated so they are often added to dishes just before serving. The leaves also lose their flavour when dry or cold so they should be used as soon as they are picked.

When crushed, coriander seeds have a lemon-citrus flavour. And the seeds quickly lose their flavour once ground so the powder should be used soon after being ground.

As well as giving flavour to dishes, crushed coriander also acts as a thickener.

The coriander roots are widely used in Thai cooking.

Coriander has some medicinal uses. It has been used to relieve anxiety and contains a compound called dodecanol that kills salmonella bacteria. When boiled with cumin seeds, coriander is an effective diuretic.

Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum) is an herb of the parsley family and the seeds are used in cooking.

The seeds have a distinctive spicy-sweet aroma and a pungent, slightly bitter flavour and are often used in curry recipes.

The seeds are usually lightly roasted before being used and ground to a powder.

Cumin is the main ingredient in garam masala and curry powder.

Cumin is used medicinally to treat diarrhoea, indigestion and morning sickness.

Cumin is often confused with caraway but cumin has a far more powerful taste.

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