Coriander is a versatile herb popular in Asian cooking including curries, Chinese and Thai dishes. Both the seeds and the leaves of the plant can be used, and offer two distinct flavours. The seeds have a slight lemony flavour; they are often ground and used as a spice. The leaves (also known as cilantro) have a slightly bitter taste and can be chopped up and added to dishes and breads or used as a garnish.
How to Grow Coriander
Coriander enjoys a sunny position but appreciates a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Coriander has a tendency to run to seed if stressed; this is where it flowers prematurely and develops seeds instead of growing lush foliage. This is fine if you are growing the plant for its seeds, but not if you are growing it for its leaves.
Coriander is best grown from seed directly into the soil. This is because it is quite a sensitive plant; transplanting young plants can shock them and cause them to bolt (run to seed). Prepare the soil thoroughly by digging it over, removing any weeds and incorporating organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost. Rake the soil so it’s level and sow seeds 4cm apart in drills 1cm deep.
If you are growing coriander for its seeds, grow the plants in full sun. This will cause them to develop seeds quicker as the hot stressful conditions will trigger flower production.
Caring for Coriander
Germination of coriander takes up to 3 weeks. Thin young plants to 20cm apart to allow them to grow to their full size. Water them in dry periods and ensure the soil never dries out. If flowers develop remove them immediately – this ensures the plants focus their energy on growing new leaves. Re-sow coriander every three weeks to ensure you have a continual supply during the summer. It is not normally necessary to feed coriander if the soil is well nourished. However, if the plants appear to be suffering give them a liquid organic feed to perk them up.
Growing Coriander in Containers
Coriander does well in containers and can be grown on a sunny windowsill or balcony. The container must be quite deep as coriander has a long taproot. Scatter seeds on the surface of the compost and cover with soil, watering well. Care for the plants as you would if they were in the ground; you may need to water them more often as pots dry quickly.
Harvest the leaves when the plant is big and robust enough to cope. Pluck or cut each leaf off the stem or snip whole stems if necessary. Both the leaves and the stalks can be used.
If you are growing coriander for its seeds, wait until the flowers have died off before harvesting. Cut the stems and place the heads of the coriander in a paper bag, with the stems slicking out. Tie the stems and the bag together in a bunch and hang upside down in a cool, dry place. Wait for three weeks and then shake the bag. The dry seeds will fall out from the flowers and be ready in the bottom of the bag. Keep them in a dry place and re-sow the following spring.
Coriander is a tasty herb to grow, both for its leaves and seeds. If you re-sow seeds every three weeks you can have lush coriander leaves throughout the summer to add to salads and Asian dishes.
Once you’ve successfully grown this fragrant herb, get some recipe inspirations from our feature Cooking With Coriander on this site.