Madhur Jaffrey, the Delhi-born award-winning actress and cookbook author, contends that cilantro’s vitamin value is one of the keys to its ubiquity in Indian cuisine. “There is a reason why everything is on the [Indian] table, and usually it’s medicinal and not just flavor,” Jaffrey explains. Cilantro is rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, as well as potassium, calcium, and manganese. It’s packed with vitamin A and is one of the richest herbal sources of vitamin K, a deficiency of which may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Between the seeds, leaves, stems, and roots, the coriander plant has been recognized since ancient times for its many medicinal applications, ranging from a digestive aid, diuretic, cough suppressant, and hemorrhoid treatment to overall Ayurvedic body balancer. The latest discovery regarding the plant’s benefits involves the essential oil extracted from the seeds. Researchers from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal—another country crazy for cilantro, according to Jean Anderson, author of The Food of Portugal—found that the oil can kill or retard the growth of a number of nasty bacteria, such as the food poisoning culprits E. coli and salmonella as well as MRSA (a strain of staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics), by attacking the membranes of the bacterial cells.
These represent just a few of cilantro’s virtues, and there are surely more to be discovered. With so much to recommend this herb and spice, chances are that even if you’re not a fan now, your children will be. That verdant belt of cilantro around the earth? It’s only going to get greener, and a whole lot wider.
Kemp Minifie was wrapped up in all aspects of food at Gourmet magazine for 32 years, and is now part of the Gourmet Live team. For more tried and tested tips and tricks, check out her weekly Kemp’s Kitchen column on the Gourmet Live blog.