Whether you know it as coriander, cilantro, dahnia or Chinese parsley, Coriandrum sativum is commonly used by cooks across continents and regions. Every part of this short-lived annual herb is used; its leaves, the seed (dried) and its roots. You will find it in dishes prepared in South and Central Asia, including India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean lands and up to Scandinavia, as well as across the oceans to Africa, Mexico and the United States.

How to grow coriander

This leafy, zesty flavoured herb is particularly easy to grow from seed. It does best in cooler weather which means that it will give you great harvests in autumn and spring. Sowing in January in the Southern Hemisphere will yield harvestable leaves from March onwards.

Coriander likes sun and friable rich soil that drains well. Regular watering is necessary. It grows well with potatoes and anise, but not with fennel.

Space plants 30cm apart. Seed germinates within two to three weeks. Plants grow 45 to 60cm high and the leaves can be harvested early as mini leaves or from 60 days onwards.

Coriander plants die after they have flowered and gone to seed. If you want a constant supply of coriander leaves, succession plant seeds every two weeks.

Towards the end of autumn and spring, let some plants go to seed for you to harvest and use. Dried coriander seed is delicious as a tea or used in curries, bread, cakes, biscuits, pickles, tomato chutney, marmalade, sausages and boerewors.

READ MORE: Make your own Thai red curry with this recipe.


Pick the leaves just before using because the soft leaves wilt quickly. The leaves are not suitable for drying. To collect the seeds, allow the plant to flower. When it dies, pull the plant out, hang it upside down, covered with a brown paper bag and the seed will fall into the bag. Harvest the roots when lifting the plant; they have a nutty flavour.

Cooking with coriander

Coriander leaves have a pungent aroma but don’t let that put you off. Once you have acquired a taste for its flavour, a new culinary world opens up.

Coriander doesn’t stand up to heat so it is best added to hot dishes at the end of cooking. To enjoy its flavour, use the fresh leaves in salads and sandwiches, salsa and guacamole, or as a garnish for chicken, pork and beef dishes as well as for stir fries and curries.

Use the seeds in garam masala, curries, bread, cakes, biscuits, pickles, tomato chutney, marmalade, sausages and boerewors.

Coriander seeds can act as a 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.

Grate the roots into Thai dishes, soups and curry pastes.

Coriander all year round

Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) is a different species with the same coriander flavour but with a hotter, peppery aftertaste. Unlike, Coriandrum sativum, Vietnamese coriander is a perennial so it will keep going through the year. It is frost-hardy with a 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.

Read more about Vietnamese coriander here.

The Gardener