Coriander is a herb that is loved by many and hated by the few who think that the leaves smell a bit like squashed bugs. Squashed bugs? Yes, even the word coriander is apparently derived from the Greek word for bug. But, in recent years, coriander’s piquant flavour has become more and more popular.

While coriander’s wild origins are lost, the plants have been cultivated for thousands of years, sometimes for flavouring but often for their therapeutic uses.

The ancient Chinese believed coriander bestowed immortality. The Egyptians stored coriander seeds in their tombs, and Hippocrates recommended coriander as a medicine. Coriander’s use as a love potion was recorded in the Arabian Nights. These days, fortunately, we don’t have such high expectations: we’re happy just to enjoy the flavour of coriander leaves and seeds in our cooking.

Coriander is renowned for being difficult to grow. This reputation comes mostly from its bad habit of quickly rushing to flower and seed. Yates Coriander is a ‘slow-bolt’ variety that’s less likely to do this, but even the best of corianders is unreliable when it’s very hot, very cold or when the plants experience sudden changes in their growing conditions.

It’s frustrating when a coriander plant starts to go to seed because, as soon as the flowers begin to develop, the leaves become tough and almost tasteless. And, although the seeds are edible, these days most cooks are interested in using coriander’s uniquely flavoured leaves, rather than its seeds. Having said that, if seeds do form, wait until they are brown and dry them in a paper bag. Whole seeds keep well in a dry jar until the right recipe comes along, or they can be infused to make Coriander Vinegar.

Probably the easiest way to maintain a good supply of fresh coriander is to plant seeds every few weeks from now right though until the end of autumn. Take a break over winter and begin sowing again in early spring. That way, if your coriander does go to seed, you’ll have fresh plants coming on.

Sow coriander seeds into rich soil in a sunny or lightly-shaded spot. It’s best if they’re sown direct where they are to grow, thus avoiding transplanting. Keep the young plants growing strongly with plenty of applications of Thrive Soluble Plant Food.

Mulching’s important, too. Mulch keeps the soil cool, so there’s less likelihood of the plants bolting. And, most importantly, don’t let the plants dry out at any stage (again, because the stress might cause them to rush to seed).

Use coriander leaves in all sorts of dishes. They’re especially popular when added as a garnish to South East Asian cuisine. Even coriander roots are sometimes chopped up and added to impart an even stronger flavour.

Harissa, a spicy African paste, is made using coriander seeds and/or leaves in a blend with chillies, garlic, cumin, salt, mint and olive oil. It can be stored in a jar (covered with oil) and spread on meats or fish before cooking.


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