Coriander can be grown year-round indoors as, unlike most Mediterranean herbs, it only needs around four hours of sunlight a day. Choose a pot with drainage holes in the bottom to avoid the compost getting waterlogged and set this in a saucer on a sunny windowsill. Three-quarter fill your container with fine multipurpose compost, which you can buy at any garden centre. Don’t pack this down, keep it loose and then add enough water to make it damp but not wet. It’s easiest to do this with a water spray rather than running your pot under the tap. Scatter a thin layer of seeds across the surface and then cover with a fine layer of compost about 6mm deep. Again, don’t pack this down, then mist with water.
If you don’t use all the seeds in the first sowing, store the rest of the packet in a cool dark place and sow a fresh pot of coriander every three to four weeks for successive cropping.
Germination will take between seven and 14 days. Throughout this time and once you have seedlings keep the compost damp but not wet, you can test dampness by sticking your finger into the compost about 2cm, if the soil feels dry at this depth lightly water. Once your coriander is established pick the mature leaves as and when you need them as regular cropping should delay the plant from flowering. Once it does the leaves will lose much of their flavour, but don’t discard your plant, allow it to set seed, which you can collect and dry for use in cooking. Remember to keep some back to sow for another crop.
Growing coriander outside.
Coriander is very sensitive to change and does not like to be moved, so rather than growing seedlings inside and then transplanting outdoors, as you would with basil, it’s better to sow coriander where you want it to grow.
Sow directly into finely raked soil between April and June in a flowerbed or tub. Cover with a fine 7cm layer of compost and dampen the compost. Seedlings will appear after two to three weeks. When these are approximately 7cm tall thin them out so that the plants are 20cm apart. You’ll be able to harvest the leaves and then the seeds from August to October.
Cut the plant at its base. Taking care that the seeds don’t scatter, place the flowerhead in a paper bag and shake till the seeds fall off. Remove any stems and then spread the seeds on a baking sheet and leave to dry. Once completely dry, store in an airtight jar.
Coriander is annoyingly quick to flower and set seed before it has produced much leaf, so it’s best to sow little and often.
The seeds have a slight lemon flavour, and once dried they can be ground and used as a spice. The leaves and stalks have a distinctive, fresh smell and taste, chop into Thai and Indian dishes for an authentic taste or use as a garnish.
An edited feature from Elspeth Pridham from http://www.allaboutyou.com