Here’s a little riddle -- White lace on a girl’s frilly green dress. What is it?
Answer: A coriander plant in full bloom.
Coriander or Dhania is a pretty, aromatic herb that is quintessential to Indian cuisine. When I was told that the plant is low maintenance, I decided I had to grow it. But there was a catch. Many people I knew, who had tried growing Coriander, had met with failure. They simply couldn’t get to start the plant from seed or had done so with great difficulty. A friend even told me that she believed that the store-bought seeds are probably boiled and so couldn’t be used. In fact she had sourced some seeds all the way from a US nursery, which were in contrast very easy to start. But where was I to get American seeds?
When I tried growing coriander, I also had my share of teething troubles. I tried different ways: soaking the seeds, crushing them a bit, but all to no avail. Where was I going wrong? The answer to starting them, I learnt from my maid – who came from a farming family – was to crush the seeds really well before broadcasting them in the soil. In fact, she told me to use the grinding stone to crush the seeds. The idea is not to powder them fine but to properly divide a seed (actually the fruit) into two parts to expose the true inner seed. Once you know this, growing coriander is a breeze.
You'll be able to have a fresh coriander garnish whenever you please. After you are done with harvesting its leaves, the plant will start blooming; you’ll find your plant’s changed into that green frill dress with white lace. Soon, you’ll have seeds that are ready to be harvested. Pluck them and store them in a paper bag. A little toasting before use will bring out its heady aroma.
|In Full Bloom|
|Pretty Coriander Flowers|
|Young, Green Coriander Seeds|
|Ready to Pluck|
|To The Plate|
A few tips for the Newbie:
1. Coriander loves the sun. Though delicate looking, the plant is rather hardy.
2. To start the plant, dip into your spice jar and take out a tablespoon of coriander seeds. Crush them really well and broadcast them in the final place you want the coriander to grow; it doesn’t take well to transplanting.
3. It takes a week or two for the seedlings to appear, so keep watering the seeds and you won’t be disheartened.
4. The plant tends to go to seed very quickly. If you are keen to have more leaves, keep plucking them.
5. Once the leaves become feathery, it’s a sign that the seeds are on its way.
6. The seeds mature at different times. You will need to watch out for browned seeds; pick them every day, lest they burst and scatter.
The coriander is so dainty and fragrant, yet so easy to grow. Try it out if you haven’t already done so.