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.

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