Other Names: Dhaniya, Cilantro, Kusbarah, Coriandro, Pak chi, Ketumbar
Coriander is a soft, hairless, foetid plant growing to 50 cm tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the centre of the umbel longer (5-6 mm) than those pointing to the middle of the umbel (only 1-3 mm long). The fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3-5 mm diameter.
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking. The leaves have a very different taste from the seeds, similar to parsley but 'juicier' and with citrus-like overtones. Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and many curries. As heat diminishes their flavour quickly, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish right before serving. The fresh coriander herb is best stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers. The leaves do not keep well and should be eaten quickly, as they lose their aroma when dried or frozen. Dried coriander seeds are crushed and used in curry dishes as well as many middle eastern dishes. Coriander seeds are also used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are typically used in conjunction with orange peel to add a citrus character to these styles of beer. Coriander roots are used in a variety of oriental cuisine most commonly in Thai dishes.
Researchers have found that coriander can assist with clearing the body of lead, aluminium and mercury. Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine. Experiments in mice support its use as an anxiolytic.Coriander essential oil has been demonstrated to exhibit antibacterial action against E. Coli.
Warmth and light are key to success. In tropical climates it grows all year round however, in the UK will only grow well between spring and late summer.
Coriander will grow in all types of soil but does best in rich deep soil with lots of compost. Ensure it has lots of drainage. If growing in a pot, ensure it is atleast 25 cm deep else the herb will have stunted growth.
Coriander is usually grown from seed. It requires lots of warmth for germination and grows best in a warm sunny area. It has a large taproot considering its size and best sown in its final growing place as it does not transplant well. The herb will grow relativily easily in the UK - sow seeds in a deep pot (atleast 25cm) throughtout the spring and summer or in the garden in a sunny spot from late spring, it will germinate in 7 to 15 days and be ready for use after about 5 weeks. The seeds should be relativily fresh (less than 12 months) and if whole, crush them a little first. It can grow to 50cm but is best used as a fresh herb before it is fully grown while leaves are still large (1 to 1.5 cm) and flowers have not formed. If you want the seeds then leave the plant to flower and set seed, which can take another 3 to 6 weeks.