Notes from Herb Heaven
Also known as Chinese Parsley and Cilantro, coriander is native to Southern Europe and the Middle East. It was grown and much liked by ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Greeks. It is a slender, hardy annual grown for its round seeds that are used as a spice and for the green feathery leaves (danya). It grows to a height of 60cm (2ft) and has pale pinky-mauve flowers. Grow in well-drained soil that is not recently manured. Do not over-fertilise. Too much nitrogen diminishes the flavour.
Coriander likes a sunny position in hot dry climates, but will grow in cool, warm and tropical areas. Grow in partial shade in very hot climates. Sow seeds in early spring and in early autumn in subtropical areas. Thin seedlings to 10cm (4cm) apart. Mulch well to keep weeds down. Seedlings appear within 1-2 weeks, two from each seed. Thin plants out to 10-15 cm apart. Water evenly and do not let the soil dry out in hot, dry weather
Propagation – by seed. Harvest only when seeds are completely ripe – when the seeds have turned from green to brown. Pull out the whole plant, place it upside down in a paper bag and hang in a cool, dry, airy space. Store seeds in airtight jars.
Leaves can be frozen for up to 6 months. The seeds are used to flavour continental sausages, chutneys, stuffings, marinades, (particularly for game), soups (especially dried bean soups), casseroles, stewed fruits, confectionery, curry powders, sauces, pickles, vinegars, desserts, milk puddings, cream cheeses and breads. And let’s not forget that it is widely used to flavour biltong.
The fresh green leaves are chopped like parsley and used to garnish and flavour soups, salads, curries, stews and cooked meats and vegetables, especially in India, Greece and Mexico. The smaller immature leaves have the better taste.
Medicinal uses: remedy for colic, flatulence, digestive upsets and bloatedness.
Drunk as a tea, it is an antispasmodic and a remedy for anxiety and tension. Chew a flower or two or a few seeds and it helps rheumatic aches and pains, both as a tea and a lotion. The strong scent of coriander keeps aphids away. Rubbed on windowsills and kitchen counters it keeps away flies and mosquitoes.
The flowers attract bees and butterflies to the garden. Add flowers to salads, stewed fruit, stir fries and fruit salads. Roots are also used for culinary purposes and can be eaten fresh.
Coriander Beef Pittas
500g rump steak in one piece,
Slice steak diagonally across the grain and
2 cloves garlic