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Coriander: Love it or Hate it?

April 1, 2015

pestocoApart from their flavour, most herbs are extremely nutrient rich but we don’t eat enough of them to get the full benefit. We tend to use them as a garnish or a flavouring agent rather than vegetables in their own right.

Coriander is one of the most nutrient dense herbs on the ANDI Scale, which stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, ANDI ranks a food’s nutrient density on a scale from 1 to 1000. The ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities, and by dividing the nutrient level of a food by its caloric content.

For context, kale scores 1000 while lemonade scores 1.

The top 5 herbs on the scale are:

1. Basil – 518

2. Coriander – 481

3. Spearmint – 457

4. Tarragon – 426

5. Oregano – 426

Interestingly, parsley comes in at number 7; and at number 3, spearmint beats peppermint which just scrapes in at number 10. So the Italians have it right, making pesto a culinary health food by using basil and olive oil and pinenuts, all yummy and nutritious whole foods!

But have you ever made pesto using another herb? Pesto works beautifully with rocket or tarragon or even oregano, but my most favourite pesto is made from coriander.

Coriander can have a polarising effect on people; you either love it or hate it.  Different people may perceive the taste of coriander leaves differently. Those who like it – love its fragrant  fresh flavour – while those who dislike it – HATE it – and have a powerful aversion to its taste and smell. Research strongly suggests a genetic component to the preference. There are two genetic variants linked to perception of coriander, the most common of which is a gene involved in sensing smells. The gene, OR6A2, encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde chemicals. Most of the pungency in coriander is formed by these aldehydes which explains why carriers of this gene are sensitive to the aldehydes and can’t tolerate the flavour. Similar aldehyde molecules are found in soap and bugs, which explains the connection!

Also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, all parts of the coriander plant are edible, including the fresh leaves, roots and the dried seeds. It is used widely in Indian, Thai and Mexican cuisine, although, having done multiple cooking classes in Thailand, I found it rarely used, the Thais favouring a distant cousin, sawtooth herb or stinkweed instead.

Coriander leaves spoil quickly and heat diminishes the flavour as does drying or freezing. The roots have a slightly different, more intense flavour and succulent clean roots are treated like gold in our house – they are hard to find! Dried coriander seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, and can be described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. I use them in Indian cooking, chutneys and baking.

Fresh coriander is full of healing phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Its leaves and seeds contain various essential oils that makes this herb useful in traditional medicines. It is antiseptic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, helps with digestion, fungicidal and a natural stimulant.

The leaves are a very good source of vitamins A, C & K and provide a high amount of calcium and potassium. The seeds provide significant amounts of dietary fibre, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

When juiced and consumed regularly, coriander can help stimulate the secretion of insulin, thereby lowering blood sugar. Studies also show that coriander can improve cholesterol profiles by reducing LDL and increasing HDL levels. I have also read that coriander is one of the very few herbs that is used as a heavy metal detox agent, to detoxify mercury, aluminium and lead among others. Hmmm… interesting.. all the more reason to eat coriander!

I have used macadamias and some Thai flavours for interest, and whilst this recipe is dairy free, substitute the nutritional yeast for a little parmesan if you prefer. The yeast flakes add the umami that parmesan would normally offer. I like to keep this pesto quite chunky if I am serving it as a dip. Otherwise I make it a bit smoother if I am tossing it through zucchini noodles or pasta. It is great added to coleslaw or diluted in a salad dressing for an Asian bent.

1 big bunch coriander
1 strip lemon zest
1 clove garlic
140g macadamias or brazil nuts
½ green chilli (or more to taste)
1 tab nutritional yeast
Juice of ½ lemon
50g macadamia oil
Big pinch sugar
1 tab fish sauce to taste

Grind the lemon rind on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz on SP 6 for 10 – 15 seconds (or until desired consistency) Check for seasoning and serve.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2015 9:51 am

    The coriander dip pesto thing is DELICIOUSIOSO!!!!!!

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