Saturday, October 31, 2009

Harvesting coriander seed


As the weather warms up in our Aussie spring, coriander (or cilantro if you prefer that name) gets seriously seedy. This herb isn't really worth bothering to grow in our hot summers. But it is worth harvesting the seeds now, and that's what I've been doing this morning. However, I have also been tracing the plant's progress from leafy to flowery to seedy with my camera, and I thought I'd celebrate this quite beautiful little event.

Freshly harvested green coriander seeds. They smell nice but do look a bit like a insect-egg colony when clustered in a bowl like this.

Just a few weeks ago they were just a bunch of small but pretty flowers.

And a few weeks before that you could tell that the seed-making season had arrived. The broad leaves we use for cooking were giving way to the fine, spindly leaves of coriander that's about to go to seed. Once you see those skinny leaves, your coriander is on the way out.

When the whole plant is in flower it looks like a blowsy cottage garden perennial (or at least from a distance it does), and it still smells as nice as ever if you happen to brush past it while weeding or harvesting other vegies or herbs.

While the flowers, from a distance, look white, up close the buds have a stronger pinkish tinge.

Once opened the flowers blow about and flutter in the slightest breeze, as they're sitting atop stems of very fine foliage. The seeds form about two to three weeks after the flowers.

I'm keeping the seeds for two purposes. One is to use them for planting coriander next year. This year's crop was my best ever, and while it may simply have been kind weather, I'm not taking any chances. I want to grow this plant's babies. The rest of the dried seed will go into the kitchen, probably into something slow-cooked and either Greek or Moroccan.

The seeds themselves are almost translucent, but not quite.

I did a bit of Googling and it seems the tried and tested paper bag method of drying seed is good enough for quite a few people, so that's what I'm doing.

The brown paper bag hangs on a nail inside the shed, and hopefully the seeds will be dry in a few weeks, but I'm not in a hurry. The brown paper bag method worked well for the zinnia flower seeds I saved last autumn, so I can't see why it won't work for these coriander seeds too. Fingers crossed, though.

Planting time for my next batch of coriander is next year, in April or May, once the summer is well and truly over and the cooler weather of autumn has arrived. Autumn, winter and early spring are the coriander growing season here.



29 comments:

Green thumb said...

Fantastic post,dear Jamie. Coriander is an integral part of Indian cuisine. Also nown as Dhaniya in Hindi, the leaves are used for garnishing Indian dishes while the coriander seed powder is added to the curries as one of the spices! The whole seeds are also used for tempering some dishes. The way you have captured its journey from leaves to seeds is beautiful!

Melinda said...

My coriander never really got to the flower stage this year - I think I planted it too late! Next year I'll start earlier.

Hope your dishes with the coriander seeds are tasty.

Sylvana said...

I harvest coriander seeds every year. I wait until they turn brown on the plant though. I might try this technique next year in order to maintain more of the seeds. You can plant them in the fall for plants in early spring. I live in zone4 with temps getting easily to -20F during the winter and it works every year.

I LOVE CILANTRO! Is has such a fresh, zippy flavor. I like to put it in just about every thing. I haven't figured out how to use coriander yet though.

Lanie said...

Thanks Jamie. I was wondering how long I had to wait to harvest the seeds. Mine are still at the pretty white flower stage. Cheers.

Kenno said...

I've also managed to get a bumper coriander crop this year... so your article is very timely for my seed keeping aspirations! I'm guessing that your shed is quickly filling with brown paper bags?

Michelle said...

Lovely post Jamie! Coriander flowers really are beautiful up close. I love to grow coriander also but always seem to miss that brief time when the leaves are ready to harvest. The plants seem to go from seedling to flower in an instant. But I don't mind, the flowers attract beneficial insects in droves. I had lots of flowers for beneficials this year and had very few problems with aphids.

Mona Watimin said...

THANK JAMIE,
I WAS JUST WONDERING AND SEARCHING HOW CORIANDER GROWING...
THEY ARE SO BEAUTIFUL, I DONT HAVE A GARDEN AS I LIVE IN A FLAT, SO I MIGHT TRY TO PLANT THEM IN THE VASE, DO YOU THINK IT WORK?

CHEERS,
MONA

Jamie said...

Mona
A vase wouldn't work, as you need to have a pot which allows the water to drain away from the plants. When soil is continually moist in something like a vase it tends to go 'sour'. So, the first thing you need is a proper pot, maybe with a dish under it to catch water if that makes a mess. (But then again, if you could fit a pot with drainage holes into a pretty vase, so you can't see the pot, that could work.)

The second thing you need is lots of sunshine. The sunniest spot there is – a sunny balcony or windowsill. Good luck, I hope it all works out OK for you.

Mona Watimin said...

Hey jamie,
Thanks for teaching me, much appreciated, so now i'm gonna get the pot, and the potting soil, i'm gonna plant the tomato as well. wish me luck! :)

Cheers,
Mona

Dan said...

Note that Corriander does not like to be moved. Plant it from seed where you want to grow it, otherwise it will bolt to seed right away. Don't bother buying seedlings unless you just want to grow seeds.

Colin said...

Newbie to the garden here Jamie. I have a coriander plant that has just seeded. Do I now remove the plant and rely on seeds for next year, or will this plant take off again next year? Thanks

Jamie said...

Colin

If it has just started seeding, don't be in a rush to pull up the plant. Let all the seeds form, then snip off the tops of each stem (the bits with the seed heads) then put them in a paper bag to dry (should take three or so weeks). Then sow those seeds in autumn next year.
I rarely see coriander 'self-seeding' from seeds which fell to the ground, so the plants do need a helping hand from a gardener to get started each year.

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Rosemary said...

Thanks! I didn't know if I could harvest seeds when they were green. As soon as mine get brown they are gone,and I can't get them. You made it all very clear!
Rosemary

Michelle said...

I planted cilantro from seeds last year and had a great harvest. Then as I stopped cutting leaves the flowers and seeds formed, even used the flowers in salads from time to time, delicious...then ignored the seeds. This year in early spring when the grass began to grow, my boyfriend unknowingly plowed down the new growth with a weedeater and they grew back even thicker, but they already have blooms in May..thought I would cut some back and leave some to harvest coriander.

Dana Ray said...

I put my coriander seeds into a pepper grinder and use it to season all kinds of things that could use a bright, almost lemony flavor--fish, sauces, you name it!

(-:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jamie, Your Cilantro/Coriander info is much appreciated! This is the first year I've had much luck at growing cilantro, then having it go to seed/coriander. I'm going to try both methods, the green seed and the brown seed harvest. I saw a few hints as to how to use it, but would love to see more if anyone has a favorite way for its use. Blessings!

Finnie Flores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Finnie Flores said...

Hi Jamie - Are they supposed to be harvested when they are greenish? I left mine until they are brown/dry. But now, they look like they are empty. Are they good to use for anything when they are like this?

Finnie Flores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

Finnie
Some people who are much better gardeners than me have said I harvested the seeds a bit early, but harvesting them green like I did still worked fine. The next season the saved seeds I sowed germinated well, at around a 60% success rate, which is not too bad, I have been told.
My expert friends said I should have waited a bit longer to harvest my seed, but my humble opinion is to harvest early, rather than late!

itfitzme said...

I had planted my coriander in late May. With the plants in full sun and a particularly warm and early summer, the plants bolted quickly. The flowers remained for some time, attracting both parasitic wasps and ladybugs.

I have been watching, with great anticipation, as plants have gone to seed. About half turned brown with the remaining still green. I waited until the bolt and stem became dry before harvesting the seeds. Not being sure what stage makes for mature and viable seeds, I decided to wait until they were about to fall off on their own accord.

The only concern I have is that many of the seeds are quite small. Purchased seeds are a good tenth of an inch or more in diameter. Many of my seeds are no more than a few millimeters (less than half a tenth of an inch).

I am left to wonder a) what caused so many to be so small and b) will these smaller seeds still germinate?

John

Jamie said...

John: not sure why the seeds are so small, perhaps it's due to the plants bolting too early (usually hotter weather causes early bolting) and not developing fully. Waiting until the seeds go brown and almost fall off is perfectly OK. Some expert gardeners told me I harvested mine too early, but the germination rate with mine was fine, anyway.

As for how well your little seeds will germinate, there's only one way to find out. Sow some of them now! Sow about 10 or so in one pot and if they're going to come up they should do so in about 10-12 days. Sow the seeds about 6mm deep. If you get more than half of them coming up, consider that a pretty good result.

Good luck!

melissab said...

Nice blog post. Thanks for the paper bag trick. I'm on that like white on rice ;-) I've never cooked with coriander seed before so it will be a new adventure.

Michael said...

I just harvested 900grams of seed! Tedious but worth it . My plants were awesome throughout winter here on the sunshine coast in Queesland . Lots of leaves and roots . Thanks for the paper bag idea I will use it and try harvesting some next year .

coriander seed said...

We can see here in the post Freshly harvested green coriander seeds.The posters are amazing.The plants seem to go from seedling to flower in an instant..

juzzy71 said...

Thanks for this post. I thought I would have to wait until the plant went brown before removing the seeds. Now I can harvest the seeds and make way for another crop.

sageymania said...

Your post on coriander is well illustrated and very helpful. I've been giving thought to writing and submitting pretty much the same thing, and if I do, would like to link it to your page.

JC said...

I let a few cilantro plants go to seed and stay in the garden over the winter. I let the seed that had fallen stay where it was. Seed heads that had bunches of seed in them I just shook around the spots I wanted it to grow. Talk about a BUMPER crop! That stuff grew everywhere. I literally have armloads of the plants and really should pull up a bunch of them (that are now full of green seed heads). I was planning on other veggies for those spots, but couldn't bring myself to pull up perfectly good plants... at least, not this year. Good to know I can harvest them green and use them that way or hang them. I'll try both ways. Anyone in the niagara area of Ontario, Canada want some coriander seeds? ;)