Coriander is an annual herb grown both for its strong-smelling foliage and its sweet-scented seeds. It is related to carrots and cow parsley and with its delicate white or pinkish flowers makes quite a decorative, if short lived, ornamental plant.
Coriander originates in southern Europe and the Middle East. The plants thrive in light, well-drained soil but also need a constant supply of moisture so you will need to water in dry weather. They prefer a dry atmosphere and do well in semi-shade. Coriander grows quickly from seed sown in late spring and you can harvest the leaves as soon as they are big enough to use. Even in perfect conditions the plants tend to produce flowers quite quickly, at which point they stop producing leaves, so it is advisable to make repeat sowings for a constant supply. Some flowering plants can be left to produce seeds. They are rather spindly so will probably need staking. Once the seeds have dried out you can use them in cooking or sow them in the garden for more leaves.
Coriander leaves are also known as cilantro and are widely used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American dishes. Cooking weakens the flavour so the leaves are used raw in salads, or as a garnish, or added to hot food at the last minute. The seeds have an orangey flavour, and are a constituent of pickling spice and of garam masala.
More about coriander
The name coriander is thought to derive from coris, the Greek for bed bug, as the smell of the leaves is similar to the smell of the insect. Seeds have been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt, it is mentioned in the Old Testament, and was brought to northern Europe by the Romans who combined it with cumin and vinegar to preserve meat.