Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is native to Southern Europe and North Africa. It is widely used in Asian cooking. Coriander also called cilantro especially in America, because the Spanish word for it is cilantro and it is widely used in Mexican cuisine. It is an annual herb, grown for its leaves and for its seeds. Many dishes mainly the seeds are used as spices rather than the fresh leaves. There are many different coriander varieties out there for example lemon scented one and fine, feather like leaved one, and the ordinary coriander. The leaves vary in shape, lobed broadly at the base and more slender higher on the plant.
Coriander grows up to 50 cm tall. After cutting coriander does not keep very well so it is really worth growing your own if you like this somewhat still exotic herb; it is exotic for me as I love curry but never tried to cook it. I use very young coriander leaves in baby leaf salads or even for a change in tomato salads and to garnish my rice dishes.
Sowing coriander seeds
The best time is to sow this annual herb seeds is may if you want to grow herbs outside in your garden or allotment plot. Coriander does not like transplanting so it is best to sow them direct outside. Water the spot where you want to sow your coriander seeds and rake it well to a fine tilth. Sow the seeds about 1 cm deep leaving 20-25 cm between rows. I do like to grow my herbs in groups so I just scatter the seeds into an area which I think is large enough for my needs; it makes a more attractive herb garden. If it is needed just thin the seedlings out, generally leave about 5 cm between the plants. Germination takes one to three weeks.
Coriander likes a light and well-drained soil and sunny position and not too much water. For lots of fresh foliage it is advisable to sow coriander every 3 weeks from April, you can sow the last lot as late as early September especially if you are in the south of the UK. Keep the plants on a dryer side and in a half shady-sunny location. Coriander has the tendency to bolt (flower too early). It is OK if you want to grow them for seeds but not if you want the fresh leaves. This is why it is important to sow the coriander seeds often and start harvesting the young leaves when the plants just about 10 cm tall.
Coriander can easily be grown in medium-sized pots or containers indoors, literally all year around. Make sure that the pots at least 20 cm deep and place them on a sunny windowsill. Water well as the pots tend to dry out quicker than the soil outside, and harvest the leaves as needed.
Growing coriander is not hard but you have to get the right temperature and water level right or this herb will bolt quite easily.Too much or too little water can cause bolting so can dry conditions and overwatering. For best results I suggest you to grow coriander in medium sized pots under glass in the spring, or in a fine and nutritious seed bed outside in early summer.
Coriander is an essential herb in curry dishes and it is very handy to have it growing in your kitchen or in your patio. You can have a dedicated window box for herbs, sow rosemary, chives, coriander and parsley together if you have the space for a decent sized window box. The herbs complement each other very well and you will have a mix of scents and flowers during the growing season. You can buy coriander seeds here.
Coriander like many herbs, contains antioxidants and proved to have antibacterial properties. Coriander has many medicinal use. It was used in ancient medical practice to reduce insomnia and anxiety, used as a digestive aid and diuretic.