For anyone who loves Asian, or Asian-inspired cooking, coriander is an absolute must have in your Yummy Yard! This fast growing annual, with a head a bit like Italian parsley, is an awesome backyard buddy. Its welcome in my kitchen anytime (unlike my dog, who isn’t!). So, lets plant out this beaut little herb!
Warm: Early March and again in early September
Temperate: Early March and again in early September
Cool: Early September
Position, Position, Position!
Like my real estate agent says, it’s all about position! Why am I bringing this up? Well, our good friend coriander has a bad habit. Ever heard of a plant “bolting”? I always thought this meant plants were being stolen faster than Cathy Freeman does the 400m! But no, it means the plant has a tendency to set seed prematurely which can greatly affect the flavour and yield of leafy vegetables and herbs.
So, to prevent this happening and encourage masses of tasty leaves, position your coriander where it will receive some shade in hot areas. This isn’t really necessary in temperate to cool areas unless you get scorching hot summers.
Like most herbs and a few other Yummy Yard favourites (just like our mates Tomato and Strawberry), coriander will do well in a container or in the vegie patch. These mean, green growing machines love nothing more than a rich, moist soil in a nice sunny spot (except of course in really warm areas… looking at you Queensland!).
If planting in pots choose an organic potting mix. These mixes are designed for container gardening and generally don’t have all the totally unnecessary synthetic fertilisers in them. If you’re planting in your patch, working in some lovely organic matter, like compost prior to planting is a top idea. Coriander will thank you for it!
Feeding coriander was once rumoured to prevent it bolting, but I reckon this is totally unnecessary if your soil is full of tasty organic matter, like compost. If you feel the need for feed, a compost tea or liquid seaweed fertiliser is all I would recommend.
What about the Water?
Now, one thing that will make coriander bolt is an erratic watering schedule. A soil with heaps of organic matter and a nice mulch layer will keep moisture in the soil longer, but don’t be frightened to jab the old soil moisture tester (i.e. your finger) into the garden bed to see how damp it is. This applies especially to coriander grown in containers, as pots (especially terracotta) will dry out faster than a celebrity in re-hab! Coriander left to dry out thinks its days are numbered and bolts, so monitor the soil moisture and water when needed.
Are We There Yet?
Like a lot of the Yummy Yard herbs coriander can be eaten all the time. I generally wait until the foliage is about 20cm high as I reckon the flavour is best at this time. There are a couple of ways you can go about chowing down on your coriander. Either chop off the foliage as required or pull the whole plant out of the ground (a bit like you would a carrot) and use everything. The entire coriander plant can be used in cooking – leaves, stems and roots and they are dead easy to prepare.
Pests and the Rest
This has got to be one of the greatest Yummy Yard plants for a number of reasons. Least of all being that coriander, generally speaking, suffers from bugger all pests or diseases. In fact, coriander is often used as a good neighbour in companion planting. This is due to the smell of the plant being unappealing to insects and the rest. As we have learned, coriander bolting is probably the biggest issue. But even this can be prevented by following the instructions above or by choosing “slow bolt” varieties at your local SGA garden centre.
My hot tip for coriander is don’t just use the foliage. The roots have an amazing and intense flavour as do the stems. And, after washing thoroughly, the roots will enhance your cooking enormously. Oh, and one other thing, if your plants do happen to bolt and set seed don’t despair. Just cut off the seed heads, take them inside and dry them out on a bit of baking paper. Once dry, the seeds can be stored and used for some entirely different kitchen flavours! Too easy!
1 bunch coriander
20 ml peanut oil or olive oil
Juice ½ lemon
1 clove garlic
50g peanuts or cashews dry roasted in a frying pan if raw.
Blend coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
Add peanuts or cashews and blend to a lumpy puree.
Season with salt and pepper.
This pesto is oh so versatile. Use it in a stir-fry or with pasta. Smear it on fish before you bake or BBQ it. Layer it between slices of eggplant, capsicum and zucchini, then bake the stacks in the oven. Mash it with avocado for a new twist on guacamole.