Kitchen Garden Simon Courtauld
This may seem an odd month to be writing about coriander. But I have found that it grows better if the seeds are sown no earlier than July, which should give plenty of leafy growth from September and, frosts permitting, until Christmas.
When I have made a spring sowing of coriander, not only has germination been inconsistent but the plants, when ready for cutting, soon bolt and produce flowering heads. The plants which reach maturity in autumn will have more leaves and, I find, a stronger taste.
Now I am aware that there are those who dislike the taste or the smell of coriander. Perhaps it has something to do with the derivation of the name
– supposedly from the Greek word koris, meaning bedbug. I am not familiar with the smell given off by bedbugs, but, to me, there is nothing unpleasant about coriander.
As a herb associated principally with Indian cooking, it is perhaps surprising that coriander grows so well in our climate, and on the greensand with which we are blessed in this part of Wiltshire. A few years ago, it was being grown commercially in a field nearby.
Early references to coriander – it is mentioned in the Old Testament (Exodus 16:31) – relate not to seeds. The Romans used them to preserve meat, and in the Middle Ages its seeds were thought an aphrodisiac. The only advantage of growing summer coriander is that it will go to seed. I have tried to ripen and dry the seeds but those bought in a spice jar have a better aroma. The seeds are used in the cooking of most southern European and Oriental countries; also in making the boerewors sausage in South Africa. Oldies may recall being given coriander comfits – the seeds coated with sugar. But the kitchen gardener should grow and harvest the leaves.
I have so many healthy plants in the ground this autumn I must find new ways to use them. Among several suggestions, I like the idea of coriander pesto.