Coriander (Coriandrum sativum; Umbelliferae)


A hardy annual 18×8 in. (45 x 20 cm) with delicate deeply cut, stem leaves; the base leaves are more solidly lobed. Both types have a very unpleasant strong smell. Tiny white flowers, tinted violet, are produced in flat heads in June—July. The round seeds are ripe in August. Origin: southern Europe, naturalised in Britain.


The seeds are the part which is used most; they have a strong and unpleasant odour when unripe, but the disappearance of this indicates their ripeness; in fact their fragrance improves with age. The flavour is a mixture of lemon and sage. Powder of the seeds is much used in cooking, for instance curry, drinks including liqueurs and in both meat and dessert dishes of Spain, Greece, the Middle East and India.


The name coriandrum comes from the Greek koris, meaning a bug, since the general odour was thought to be the same as that of bedbugs! Coriander seeds have been used at least since Egyptian times 1,000 years before Pliny; they are mentioned in the Bible, and there is record of their use here since 1289.


Sow the seeds out of doors in April, preferably in a warm soil, otherwise germination is slow, in rows about 1 ft (30 cm) apart, thinning to 8-9 in. (20-23 cm). Also in September, or under glass in March, to plant out in May. Collect the seeds in August when their unpleasant smell has gone.