CORIANDER (Coriander sativum)

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CORIANDER (Coriander sativum)

Coriander is a culinary herb in several countries. The fresh leaves are used in many Mexican, Mediterranean, and Chinese dishes. The seeds have a very unpleasant odor, but as they dry, the odor changes to a pleasing citrus-peel fragrance. The inner heart of the seed is steeped in water, strained out, and the water used for cooking--primarily in pastries, sausage, cooked fruit, ground meat, salads, puddings, applesauce, and breads. The ground-seed powder is an ingredient of curry. The seeds, whole or crushed, can be added to sachets and potpourris.

This is a dainty annual that looks somewhat like parsley and grows 1 to 2 feet tall. Young leaves are oval and toothed, while mature leaves are feathery and pungent. The small, pinkish white flowers occur in flat, umbrellalike clusters at the stem ends.

Coriander prefers full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. Sow the seed 1/2 inch deep in the spring, after all danger of frost is past. The seed germinates quickly; thin the seedlings to 6 inches apart. Because the plants flower and set seeds in only 9 weeks, make successive plantings every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure a continuous supply. Coriander will reseed itself if the seeds aren't harvested before they drop. It is helpful to stake the stems to prevent them from falling over.

If leaves are to be used, harvest only the younger ones. To harvest the seed, wait until the fruits turn light brown. Then cut off the entire plant, place in a paper bag, secure, and hang to dry in a warm, dark place. To remove the inner hearts of the seeds, rub the fruit between the palms of your hands. The pods will split in half and release the seeds.

SOURCE: James C. Schmidt Department of Horticulture Michigan State University

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