It is given different names and opinions differ on its ‘fragrance’ but coriander is universally counted as one of the most distinctive culinary herbs.
Whether you know it as coriander, cilantro or Chinese parsley, Coriandrumsativum is commonly used in the cuisine of almost every continent or region: South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia, Mediterranean, India, Texas/Mexico, Latin America, Portugal, China, Africa, (and South Africa) and Scandinavia.
Every part of this short lived annual herb is used; its leaves, the seed which is dried and its roots.
The bright green feathery leaves look like Italian parsley and it has similar growth, with a height of 50cm and spread of 30cm.
Preferring cooler growing conditions, it does best in autumn and spring, tending to bolt into flower in midsummer. Other growth requirements are full sun, light rich soil and regular watering.
It grows well with potatoes and anise, but not with fennel.
Pick just before using because the soft leaves wilt quickly. They also lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
Cooking with coriander:
Coriander leaves have a rather pungent aroma but don’t let that put you off. Once you have acquired a taste for its flavour, a culinary world opens up.
Fresh leaves: in Asian dishes, stir fries, salsa, guacamole, salads, sandwiches, with chicken, pork and beef and as a garnish for dhal and curries.
Seeds: in Garam masala, curries, bread, cakes, biscuits, pickles, tomato chutney, marmalade, sausages and boerewors. .
Roots: Thai dishes, soups and curry pastes.
Taste tip: Coriander doesn’t stand up to heat. Add it at the end of cooking or use it in larger amounts if cooked for longer.
Good to know
The seeds act as a mild sedative and digestive tonic. Put half to one teaspoon of seed in a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 to l5 minutes. Drink before meals.
Chewing the seeds freshens the breath, especially after eating garlic.
Coriander all year round
Vietnamese coriander (Persicariaodorata) is a different species with the same coriander flavour but with a hotter, peppery aftertaste.
It is a frost hardy perennial with low spreading growth. It likes lots of water and consistently moist soil.
The leaves withstand longer cooking and combine particularly well with chillies, garlic, ginger and lemon grass.
Natural herb fragrances for the home
A house quickly smells stale. Even being closed up for a day makes a difference. The main offenders are pets, cooking smells, damp bathrooms, and carpets.
Many of the artificial air fresheners are just that! Too strong, too sweet and possibly not too healthy because of the chemicals used!
It all started with herbs
If you really want natural, go back to nature and herbs in particular. Aromatic herbs have always been used as air fresheners. From ancient times branches of sweet smelling herbs were thrown onto the floor and when trodden on, released their fragrance. As a result, lavender and rosemary became known as strewing herbs.
Why home-made herbal fragrances make sense (and save cents)
- You can grow your own abundant supply.
- Growing chemical free herbs is in your hands.
- Herbal preparations are not expensive to make. Ingredients are from the garden or the store cupboard.
Herbs with the “f” factor (fragrance of course!)
Lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil, pineapple sage, lemon grass, lemon verbena, various mints catmint, feverfew, and rose scented geranium.
Spice is nice
Coriander seeds are an ingredient in most pot pourri recipes. To dry your own let a few plants go to seed. Pull out the plant when it turns brown, hang it upside down covered with a brown paper bag. The seeds will fall into the bag.
Other spices that work well with herbs are star anise, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.
This combination of dried herbs and spices never goes out of fashion and once made, can be refreshed for months.
Ingredients: chopped citrus peel with cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, allspice berries and dried herbs. Red rose petals for added fragrance and colour.
Method: Blend everything and add a few drops of pot pourri oil. Put in a jar, seal and shake. After a week, add more dried herbs and oil and leave to blend for another week. Then decant into bowls and place in different rooms.
Herbal room sprays are an instant fresher upper. A basic spray consists of a strong herb infusion augmented with a few drops of essential oil.
Margaret Roberts (The Lavender Book) makes a stronger mix, essentially a tincture.
Ingredients: lavender flowers, chopped lemon grass stalks, whole cloves, coriander seeds, and lemon rind
Method: place in a screw top bottle, adding vodka or cane spirit and infuse for two weeks. The bottle is shaken daily. After two weeks, strain, add the essential oils and distilled water.