The origins of cilantro are unclear, possibly in Asia Minor or the Middle East. Still, it seems to have always grown everywhere and to have been cultivated a very long time ago.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, made use of it, as did the Chinese.
The Ancient Egyptians perfumed their bread with it and placed some in their pharoahs' tombs, where it has been discovered.
Cilantro is mentioned in the Bible. The Romans set great store by it, using it to preserve their meat. Naturally, it was they who spread its use throughout Europe.
However, cilantro was not highly appreciated in the Middle Ages, owing to its "bug-like" smell. It was believed to be toxic and was mainly used to treat lice.
While it has always had pride of place in southeast Asian cuisine, and those of India, the Middle East, and South America, it has taken cilantro a long time to gain a lasting foothold in Europe (except for Portugal). Migratory flows and the intermingling of culinary cultures led to its establishment in the 20th century, even allowing it to enter the list of fine herbes (soft, delicate herbs).
Cilantro is now grown everywhere, more intensely in Romania, the Ukraine, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Argentina, and Mexico, particularly for its seeds and essential oil.
Fresh cilantro: slightly moist and very green leaves, with no sign of yellowing.
Coriander seeds: whole and with no cracks, with an even beige color.
Powder: strong fragrance, stronger than that of the seeds.
Fresh cilantro is sold in bunches. It is also available as frozen or freeze-dried leaves.
Coriander seeds are sold in small jars.
They are also found in different spice mixes: curry, tandoori, ras-el-hanout, quatre épices, garam masala, five-spice powder, etc.
The powder is sold in boxes or in small jars.
Fresh: cilantro can be kept in the refrigerator for 2–3 days, wrapped in paper towel or a damp cloth.
Coriander seeds and powder should be kept in their container, well sealed and in a dry place. The BBD is indicated on the packaging. This is generally 2–3 years after packing, but it is better to use them before this.
Cilantro and coriander seeds are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially carotenoids. This makes them particularly beneficial for health.
Coriander seeds are used in herbal medicine to ease digestion. The leaves are used to treat diarrhea, soothe toothache, and to freshen breath.
Also known as Chinese or Arabic parsley, and coriander, there is only one variety of cilantro.
Use is made of both the leaves and the fruit, mistakenly referred to as seeds, which are known as coriander seeds.
Fresh cilantro: the leaves are serrated, resembling those of flat-leaf parsley or chervil, but more rounded, and green, sometimes tinged with red when the plant is flowering.
Coriander seeds (fruit): these are green when fresh. They gradually turn beige and then brown as they ripen. They are harvested before ripening completely and subsequently dried. They have a light, citrus-like fragrance.
Powder: the dried fruit is toasted and finely ground. This has the same fragrance as the whole seeds.
Essential oil: this is extracted from the fruit and develops a strong fragrance.
Whatever form it comes in, cilantro is available throughout the year.