With a pungent flavour, coriander is quite distinctive and is strongly associated with Asian cooking these days. But it’s actually native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. Over the centuries, it made its way to the Middle East, India, Asia and South America and it features in the cuisines of all of those regions. Beyond its culinary uses, coriander is referred to in the Arabian story, The Thousand And One Nights, as having aphrodisiac properties and it was also used in love potions in the Middle Ages – how’s that for a multi-use herb?
All parts of the plant are edible from the leaves and stems, to the roots and seeds. The seeds have quite a different flavour from the foliage – faintly citrus-like – and they can be dried and stored in an airtight jar until the right recipe comes along. Obtaining seeds from your home-grown coriander is not a difficult process, as the plant has a reputation for ‘bolting’ – meaning it rushes to flower and seed instead of staying in its vegetative stage. This mainly happens when the weather gets warm and the days lengthen, so if you love having fresh coriander on hand, grow it through the cool months of the year, from autumn through to spring.
This versatile herb pops up as an ingredient in all sorts of dishes. If the roots are called for, always make sure they’re thoroughly washed in plenty of cold water. When arranging a dish on a bed of coriander leaves, or topping it with a fresh handful just before serving, always use the youngest and freshest leaves from the top of the plant.
Choose a sunny or lightly shaded spot, with loose rich soil. If sowing seeds, sprinkle them direct, to avoid transplanting. Alternatively, grow in pots.
Feed with soluble fertiliser every few weeks, to encourage plenty of fresh growth. Mulch to keep the soil cool and don’t allow plants to dry out.
Trim fresh leaves regularly to encourage growth. To harvest seeds, wait until they’re brown, then store in a paper bag until fully dried.
Chilli, of course! But it also pairs well with pineapple and garlic, as well as beef, chicken and also eggs.