This fresh-tasting spice was known to the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Its name among the Mycenaean Greeks was koriadnon, and some say the Cretan king Minos named his daughter, Ariadne, in honour of it.
Like much else from the ancient Mediterranean, the use of coriander has now spread around the world. It is an important ingredient in the cuisines of the modern Mediterranean, Middle East, India and South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Africa and Latin America. Vietnamese cooks rely on coriander leaves for the light, ‘green’ flavour characteristic of that country’s cuisine; Mexicans use it in salsa and guacamole. Coriander ‘seeds’, which have a very different flavour, are ground up by Indian cooks for use in garam masala, hot curry powder, as well as in sambar and rasam.
In Asia, coriander is used to soothe stomachs and minor respiratory infections. Sri Lankan mothers mix it with other herbs as a specific against colds and flu.