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Save Your Seeds: Coriander


Photo by Jamie at

BOTANICAL NAME: Coriandrum sativum – the genus name comes from the Greek word for bug, referring to the smell of its unripe seeds. Also called cilantro and Chinese parsley.

ORIGIN: southern Europe and parts of Eurasia – 3000-year-old seeds were found in Egyptian tombs.

DESCRIPTION: a small annual herb that is usually grown for its leaves in Australia.

CULTIVATION: plant seeds directly in place, at a time of year when you know you can keep the water up to it. Seedlings do not transplant well. If the plant dries out it will go to seed quickly. Try growing it in the shade of larger vegetables.

SAVING THE SEEDS: flowers are perfect, self-fertile and visited by many insects; if you have different sorts of coriander they will cross. The white, lacy flowers are produced on top of the branches in spreading umbels. The plant goes through an unpleasant odour stage when the seeds are green so that, for a certain time, it is barely edible. The seeds then turn light brown and harden, and are harvested for replanting or for use as spice.

The seeds do not all ripen at once. Because the smallest disturbance makes the seeds fall when ripe, successive harvests are necessary. Once the seeds are dry on the plant, cut the stems and place them in a paper bag. When fully dried, rub the cut material in your hands to loosen the seeds.

STORAGE: well-stored seeds last for three years, and are ninety to the gram.

USE: the seed has a warm, aromatic taste and is used, often ground, as a condiment throughout Asia, Latin and South America. The leaves are used in soups, meat dishes and especially with fish. The crushed thin roots are an essential ingredient in Thai cuisine. In Chile the leaves are even used in fruit salad. Chewing the ripe seeds stimulates secretion of gastric juices.

TYPES: there are two types of coriander for different purposes. One gives large seeds which, when ground, are an important ingredient in curry powder. The other gives small seeds, and provides the better tasting and more abundant leaves. Oval and round seeds are available in Indian food shops.

Taken from the Seed Savers Handbook by Jude and Michel Fanton (Seed Saver Network 2014)


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