For more than 3000 years coriander has been cultivated for its aromatic foliage, roots and seeds. All of these have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Coriander resembles flat leaf parsley although it is more tender in texture forming rosettes of long, thinly stalked leaves arising from a crown. The leaves are dissected into wedge shaped segments developing a fern like appearance. Vietnamese coriander is a leafy perennial used in tropical areas. The leaves of Mexican coriander (cilantro) are strongly aromatic.
Coriander needs good air circulation, a sunny position and adequate fertilizing. Sow this annual directly into the garden in spring after the last frost. Weed the crop regularly and protect the plants from water stress. Harvest the seed crop when half the seeds on the plant have turned brown. Tie harvested stems into bunches and then hang them upside down in paper bags to trap the falling seed. Once the plant is full size, harvest foliage to use fresh at any time.
The pungent leaves and stalks are popular in Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, South American and Mexican cooking, in salads, soups, legume dishes, curries and stir fries. In India the leaf is used in types of fresh chutneys. Long cooking destroys the flavour of the leaves so add them just before serving. Roast the seeds to enhance their flavour. Used whole or ground their mild, slightly sweet taste works well in sweet and savoury dishes and in sauces such as harissa. The fibre in ground seeds absorbs liquid and helps to thicken curries and stews. The root has more intense flavour than leaves. It is used in Thai cooking especially, pounded into curry pastes. You can try my lamb tagine or these Thai inspired meat balls.