Cilantro (Coriander) plants
No other herb can be used to substitute for coriander's edgy taste. With the ascent of our fascination with Asian - especially Thai and Indian cuisine - more and more home cooks need coriander. That piffling pack from the supermarket just does not cut the mustard any more. Coriander, also known as cilantro, has a trefoil leaf which is broad and scalloped lower down the plant, with a strong scent. The upper leaves are more pungent. Come the summer it is threatening to flower (not really what you want, but very pretty) with white lacy umbels and then in the autumn it will divulge its third treasure of spicy, aromatic seeds that dry well and are integral to virtually every curry - not to mention carrot and coriander soup. And in this instance, homegrown seeds do taste that much better, with an orangey scent, than anything you can buy. If space is short or you are not enamoured of coriander's distinctive taste, then take a look at the other herbs we sell.
Tender but worth it
Coriander is fast growing and prolific when it is happy. Once the plant has reached 10 cm treat it like a cut and come again salad to keep it producing more leaf as opposed to putting its energies into flower production, commonly known as bolting, which is not useful for the cook because it makes the leaves bitter. The main way to prevent bolting is to leave the roots undisturbed. If the tap root becomes disturbed the plant is much more likely to bolt so take extra care when transplanting your coriander plant from its pot to its final position. Coriander thrives in dry conditions, and requires a hot summer to give of its best. If you are interested in growing Coriander for seed, revel in the froth of lacy flowers that will eventually overtake the plant and wait for autumn to collect your crop of zingy seeds. Keep a watchful eye on them because there is a short window of opportunity between the seed ripening and then falling. Coriander is one of the main ingredients in Green Thai curry - both the root and foliage - but do not think that coriander is a complicated herb to use: add it to salads, include it in pineapple or mango salsas to eat with grilled meats and it always lightens and brightens slightly worthy soups with its energetic taste. Grow coriander in your herb garden, but as with all herbs, it is worth keeping a pot close to the kitchen so that it is never too much trouble to go and pick it. As with most herbs if you grow it in a pot, then make sure there is plenty of drainage because coriander hates having its feet wet.
- Height: 60 cm
- Spread: 30 cm
- Colour: green, deeply cut foliage, white, lacy flowers, brown, spicy seeds in autumn
- Flowers: June to September
- Uses: culinary, herb garden
- Spacing: 25 cm
- Scent: aromatic - essential for Asian food
- Habit: upright
- Life: tender
The name cilantro comes from the Spanish because of its use in Mexican cuisine as well. In fact coriander was taken to America in 1670 but we now know that coriander was cultivated from 2000 BC in Greece and is mentioned in the old testament when manna was apparently as coriander seeds. For this reason it is still included as one of the traditional bitter herbs to be eaten at Passover. The Greeks gave it its name because they considered coriander to smell of bed bugs or Koris but it was brought to Northern Europe by the Romans who combined it with vinegar and cumin rubbed this into meat to preserve it. Strangely while most people perceive coriander as having a citrussy, refreshing taste, some people find that it tastes more like soap - a genetic variation that we cannot gainsay.