Saturday, 22 March 2008


I have long hated the taste and smell of this without ever having heard of it, for I have only just discovered that it is another name for coriander. I don't care if Cato recommended chopped fresh coriander as a garnish to encourage an invalid's appetite; great Roman statesman or no, the man was clearly a silly old fool, for its taste is foul.

The etymology of the word says it all: it derives from the Greek koris, meaning bedbug, and the foliage of the plant has an odour which has been compared, unfavourably, with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes.

(The seeds are another matter, and used in cakes, stews, breads and, for example, garam masala, are a pleasant aromatic spice with no reminder of the vile taste and stench of the leaves.)

Of course, anything which repels people of cultivated tastes—Tony Blair, say, or the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber—always has its admirers among the undiscriminating, and there are a few websites expressing their aberrant views. Happily, these are far outnumbered by sites like this one, based on the reasonable premise that no normally functioning human being would ever in a lifetime consider coriander/cilantro edible.

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