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Feb 15, 2003 07:14 PM

cilantro vs. coriander

  • r

Wassa diff?

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    1. Coriander is related to the parsley family. It's known for its seeds (the dried, ripe fruit of the plant) and its leaves (commonly known as cilantro and Chinese parsley). The seeds are used whole for pickling, and ground in baked goods and curry blends. The flavors of the seeds and leaves bear no resemblance to each other.

      3 Replies
      1. re: critter

        You lost me. So you mean that cilantro (leaves) is a subset of coriander (whole plant)? I guess that makes sense, but why are dictionaries listing cilantro (US) vs. coriander (UK)? Are the leaves themselves called coriander in the UK, while not in the States? Or...can "cilantro" represent the overall plant in the States, in addition to the seed-specific sense?

        1. re: Ruby Tuesday

          yes, the term "cilantro" refers to the leaves, and the term "coriander" often refers to the seed. Some people say "coriander seed" to avoid confusion. As I said in my other post, I have heard the term "Chinese Parsley" used most frequently in the UK.

          BTW, I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that the spice coriander (the seed) is rarely used in Mexico, whereas the leaf (cilantro in Spanish) is frequently used. I believe that the plant leaf was first introduced in the US by folks who wanted it for Mexican cooking, hence the name "cilantro" was used. Thirty-five years ago I lived in Mexico a short while, and when we came back cilantro was rarely available in US stores (and this was in the SF Bay Area). My mother figured out how to grow the leaf from coriander seeds.....and the leaf is what we called "cilantro."

          Too much information, huh?

          1. re: Janet

            A healthy shot of Herradura Reposado should help clarify this issue...or at least bring into focus that it isn't much of an issue.

      2. j
        Janet A. Zimmerman

        There's one plant, with two parts used -- the seeds and the leaves. Several names for the leaves: coriander leaves, cilantro, or chinese parsley. In the Western US, at least, you usually see the leaves called cilantro, which (I think) is the Spanish/Mexican name.

        The entire plant is called coriander (Coriandrum sativum, actually).

        20 Replies
        1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

          Cilantro is cilantro is cilantro. I am stunned to hear that ANYONE (in the US, at least) is calling this coriander or anything else. That's like telling me that "lemongrass" is a regional term!

          1. re: Ruby Tuesday

            Why are you "stunned" to hear anyone using the traditional English word for the plant?

            1. re: ironmom

              Just the fact that this is such a common item, I buy it all the time, and I've never seen any variation in signage. Unlike, say, eggplant vs. aubergine or biscuits vs. cookies.

              Funny that cilantro came via Mexico; I associate it primarily with VIETNAMESE food!

              1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                The English name for the plant has always been coriander. Only in the past 20 years has the Spanish word displaced the English word for the leaves as Mexican cooking came to be mainstream.

                The standard Vietnamese cookbook, The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam (1979) uses the term coriander, with "Chinese parsley" in parentheses, and says in the ingredients description that it is also known as cilantro.

                1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                  Mexican and Vietnamese food, oddly enough, share several ingredients. Where I live, many of the SE Asian grocery stores have a Mexican section--no other cuisines, just Mexican

                  1. re: PAO

                    It might be interesting to note that, under the Spanish, commerce from its colonies in the Philippines was sent to Acapulco. By the early 17th century, there were whines sent to Spain about the Chinese becoming too dominant in the laundry industry in Mexico City....

              2. re: Ruby Tuesday

                I often call it Kothmir....the Hindi (or is it Gujarti) word my husband taught me. I make a mean chutney out of the stuff...but somehow "cilantro chutney" just doesn't cut it....

                BTW, the leaves are often called "Chinese Parsley", especially in Great Britain. None the less, the spice "coriander" refers to the seeds of the plant. The seeds and leaf taste nothing alike.

                1. re: Janet

                  In Kenya, we called the leaves "dania".

                  1. re: Janet

                    dhaniya is kothmeer, just different words for the same thing. Dania (stressed is different and all the vowels are long) came to Swahili from Hindustani.

                  2. re: Ruby Tuesday

                    Here are some other examples

                    lady's finger = okra
                    brinjal = eggplant
                    capsicum = green peppers
                    yam = taro

                    1. re: SG

                      Yam is by no means taro, but that is a common misconception.

                      And lady's finger = okra? Some kind of vanilla eclairs perhaps, but...okra?

                      1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                        "Yam is by no means taro, but that is a common misconception.

                        And lady's finger = okra? Some kind of vanilla eclairs perhaps, but...okra?"

                        All depends on where you are...

                        prawn = shrimp
                        torchlight = flashlight
                        lorry = truck
                        boot = trunk
                        queue = line
                        etc etc..


                        1. re: SG

                          OK, apparently there is some special regional use of "lady's finger" to mean okra, but are y'all implying that you don't also the meaning which I thought was universal - marscapone cheese between vanilla wafers? (or something like that)

                          Much as I like okra, I would be aghast if the corner bakery handed me a piece when I ordered a "lady's finger".

                          1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                            Ah-ha, but it's all in the semantics. The bakery item to which you refer are "lady fingers". Okra (as far as i have heard, anyway), are "lady's finger".

                            That's kind of like my parents calling "Trader Joe's", "Trader's Joe".

                          2. re: SG

                            yep, and i have a friend from the south who insists on calling avocado a mango... go figure.

                          3. re: Ruby Tuesday

                            The botanical name of the plant is coriandrum sativum -cilantro is simply its name in spanish - in other languages it has other names - before it became ubiquitous in the US and was still a bit mysterious I called it green coriander.

                            I imagine we started calling it cilantro because hispanic grocers were the most reliable source in many areas (its not called cilantro in chinese, arabic, vietnamese or hindi...)

                            bty my first Indian Cookbook, from the Foods of the World Series (pre-1970), refers to this item as "fresh coriander" --Madhur Jaffrey, writing a few years later, refers to it as "fresh chinese parsley (coriander greens or cilantro)".

                            1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                              I agree with yam vs taro, separate beasts, and an even more common misconception is yam vs sweet potato; but my mother always called okra "lady's fingers." I assumed it was her way of sneaking what I then considered nasty, slimy, hairy things past us, but I have heard it elsewhere, too.

                              1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                                There are other terms for Okra which are much more descriptive of its appearance, and either more offensive or more entertaining, depending on what you prefer.

                            2. re: Ruby Tuesday

                              Well, the proper English name is coriander, and ever shall be.

                              However, in my house, we call the leaves green soap, and as a result, they don't feel terribly welcome, and we are happy with that result....

                              1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                                You may be stunned, but you are simply sheltered from the longer usage. Coriander is the traditional term, Chinese parsley the next most traditional term, and cilantro is the latecomer to the party.

                            3. s
                              Stanley Stephan

                              Everything you want to know about Coriandrum sativum L. Scroll past name in 52 languages (including Esperanto) for some great info and pictures.



                              1. In American recipe writing, coriander usually refers to the seeds of the coriander plant, a "sweet" spice available whole or ground and often used in pickling and baked goods. Cilantro refers to the leaves of the same coriander plant, often used in Latin American, Mexican and Asian cooking -- it is also called coriander leaf or Chinese parsley.

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: Nancy Berry

                                  Just to clarify a bit more:

                                  If your recipe says "coriander" with no other qualification, then it undoubtedly refers to the seed of the plant. If it says "coriander leaves," "fresh coriander," etc. then it refers to the herb more commonly know in the US by the Spanish name, "cilantro."

                                  I agree the use of the term "cilantro" for the fresh leaves is fairly recent in the US. I have older cookbooks and books about herbs that refer to it either as "coriander leaves" or "Chinese parsley." It's actually quite funny to read books about herbs on the subject of "coriander": many of them are quite adamant that the leaves are too strongly flavored to use and have an offensive odor!

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    ok, i get that cilantro is called coriander in england. i'm visiting england from california right now. i've been to several supermarkets and have looked at dozens of bunches of coriander. before i knew it was called coriander i suspected it was cilantro but it was so different than the cilantro in the states i wasn't sure. first of all the smell was not as robust or smelled very little like the cilantro i knew in the states. also, the leaves did not look the same. the cilantro in the states was more solid with less breaks or lines in the leaves. does the cilantro here come from a different strain? if so can one find what is available in the states?

                                    1. re: sammyxlr8r

                                      Sammy, it's all the same stuff basically, just different quality. The coriander leaves sold in English supermarkets are often a bit pale and weedy - I suspect they probably pick it too young. You'll be more likely to find the robust, stronger smelling leaves that you're more familiar with if you look in local greengrocers or, better still, Indian or Asian grocers.

                                      The other thing with the weedy supermarket variety is that it's usually cut off close to the leaf, with no stalks. The Indian shop bunches will be more likely to have full, long stalks, sometimes all the way down to the root, which are indispensible if you want a very strong flavour of coriander in, say, a soup or if you're making Thai green curry sauce.

                                      1. re: paddydubai

                                        There is another one to add to your list. It took me forever to find out that what the English call "Rocket" is Arugala (I think)

                                        1. re: billieboy

                                          yes, Rocket is Arugula. It was known as Rocket (under various spellings) in the US too before it became better known under the Italian name.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            No, they're quite different. Rocket is a free food that grows near irrigation ditches and is often served with ham hocks. Arugula is an expensive green frequently found in the company of extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, and aged Parmesan cheese. ;-)

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Reminds me of "chicory". There's the greens that my Italian neighbor (and others like her) foraged from lawns at first sight in the spring, and the greens sold in the market....

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                How would you explain this?

                                                I can't count the number of references to "Rocket" in British-filmed cooking shows. But I HAVE seen reference to 'rocket' in hamhock preparations, so is there a difference not apparent?

                                              2. re: Karl S

                                                "Arugula" must come from some dialect of Italy, but it is not the Italian name.

                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                  Rughetta is Italian for arugula/rocket/fancy-pants lettuce. I've seen it called rucola, also.

                                              3. re: billieboy

                                                well, in French arugula is "Roquette"... so it may be where that comes from...?

                                                1. re: billieboy

                                                  And here's another, the English call Zucchini squash marrow, as in bones.

                                                  1. re: chilihead

                                                    and eggplant, aubergine
                                                    bell pepper, capsicum