Like basil, coriander appears to have been a staple herb in the ancient Mediterranean. As such, it had many recorded uses in both cooking and medicine. Pliny reports its merits in the latter field, writing that coriander was used to treat many maladies, including hiccups,[1] nose-bleeds,[2] snake bites,[3] and even ulcers and malaria.[4]  It was also reported to be an aphrodisiac.[5]

As far as cultivation, Pliny writes that coriander is a plant “stubborn in its growth”[6] and should be planted at the autumnal equinox.[7] Like basil, he writes that there was only one kind of coriander known in the ancient world.[8]

Coriander also appears to have been a fairly common herb in cooking, found in many of Apicius’s recipes, and Pliny writes that coriander is included in the seasoning of the best way to cook rock fish.[9] Marcus Varro is quoted saying that coriander was also used with vinegar and cumin to preserve meat over the summer months. [10]

[1] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock (London: Taylor and Francis, 1855), 20.34.

[2] Ibid, 20.40.

[3] Ibid, 20.82.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jeanne D'Andréa, Ancient Herbs in the John Paul Getty Museum Gardens, illus. Martha Breen Bredemeyer (Malibu, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1989), 42.

[6] Pliny, The Natural History, 19.35.

[7] Ibid, 19.54.

[8] Ibid, 20.82.

[9] Ibid, 32.31.

[10] Ibid, 20.82.