Coriander or cilantro as its more commonly known in the USA is one of the most widely used herbs. Not only are the leaves extremely useful in cooking but so are its seeds and even the flowers too. You find it growing in pots and troughs from South America to India and is remarkedly popular in Asian and American cuisine. We have noted a number of recipes on this web-site which use it.
The herb is generally slow to run to seed so it gives you a longer harvest than you might expect. Grow as an annual although in warmer climates it is found as a weedy perennial. It’s commonly used in curry, chutney or as a salad leaf. Best added to a dish at the last minute for full effect.
Incidentally it is also known as Chinese Parsley in some countries.
The herb is not as tricky to grow as many would make out. It will bolt quite easily when there are severe changes in weather or the plant suffers other stresses such as periods of drying, changes in temperature or when the roots are disturbed. The herb will prematurely produce flowers at the expense of leaves, however flowers and seeds are also valuable food ingredients. In northern climates this plant can be grown outside in a small plot or in troughs or pots. Makes for cut-and-come-again harvesting.
– Indoor Sowing
Sow indoors all year round if you want leaves for any recipes. When grown indoors, sow 0.5cm (1/4″) deep and thinly in small pots of compost or good soil. Keep watered and place in a warm, light position on the windowsill when sowing out of season. The season in northern climates is March to June so we are talking all months outside of these for out-of-season ! Maintain a temperature of between 16ºC and 20ºC (60-68ºF) which is ideal. Such sowings are best treated as microgreens or small plants for a salad. The crop will just about stretch to a reasonable content given the poor light conditions of winter.
– Sown Outdoors
If you sow outdoors in the UK for example, then from March to June is the only time as the soil needs to be as warm as possible. It’s best to sow thinly where it is to crop which is 10cm (4in.) apart and 0.5cm or 1/4 in. deep. Sow into finely prepared soil which has been watered already. The seedlings appear in 14 to 21 days. Thin seedlings to 20cm (8″) apart but don’t be surprised if they bolt with transplanting. I water as often as I can until the plants are established because this reduces one of their stresses. For a continuous supply, make sowings at two or three week intervals.
Coriander can be sown straight into the ground or into modular trays with 5 seeds to a cell. With modules, use a John Innes No. 1 compost or a multi-purpose compost and sprinkle the seeds on top. These seeds can be sown together much more closely which is about 2.5cm (1in.) apart. Cover with compost, keep well watered and place in a sheltered part of the garden or the greenhouse if sowing slightly early or later in the year. An early sowing is early March but a late one is September. Again keep sowing in pots every two or three weeks to maintain supply.
Try to avoid disturbing the roots as long as possible because this induces bolting. Avoid a midsummer sowing as the temperature really is too high for such a plant.
Pick the leaves as required. Most crops when outdoors will start in May. For plants growing in pots, pink a few leaves from each plant so they can regrow quickly. If you have a large amount to pick, take a pair of scissors and cut as required. When the plants are better established in their containers, try cutting with scissors because it will certainly regrow a couple of times given such treatment. Use as dried or frozen but fresh is best for flavour.
Harvest the seed when the flower heads turn from green to brown. Cut the plant and tie them all together. Place the heads in a paper bag. hang upside down in a greenhouse or shed. The seeds should naturally fall into the bag.
‘Calypso‘ – Good bolting resistance and one bred for the United Kingdom surprisingly. Quite robust.
‘Confetti’ – a variety with carrot-like foliage which doesn’t really look like coriander should with its feathery plumes. Great for cut-and-come-again harvesting.
‘Leisure‘ – Does not bolt like others and resembles parsley. Worth trying in the early and later parts of the season because of its general hardiness.
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