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I have always grown cilantro in my garden but have never harvested the seeds until this year. Two weeks ago, I cut all of the seed heads off of the plants in the garden and placed them in a large brown paper bag. Then I hung the bag in a cool, dark place and allowed the seeds to dry out even further. Today, I found a sunny spot on the dining room floor and spent an hour gently rubbing all of the seed heads to release the fragrant brown little seeds into a basket. Finally, I removed the remaining stems and put the seeds in a glass jar. I will use these all year in my Asian and Indian dishes as well as in some medicinal teas to enhance digestion.

Coriander seeds come from cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), a hardy annual native to southern Europe and western Asia. This popular herb has lobed dark green leaves, which tend to become more finely divided as the stems elongate and form flowers. Also known as ‘Chinese parsley’, all parts of this plant can be used. The leaves have a very distinct oily or soapy smell and in my experience people either really love it or strongly dislike it.

Coriander is one of the world’s oldest herbs. Seeds were found in ancient Egyptian tombs and though introduced to China in about AD600, coriander is still known as hu, ‘foreign’. It is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament and is included among bitter Passover herbs. ~Brown

Cilantro’s tiny flowers eventually form spherical brown seeds, called coriander. The seeds smell sweet and almost citrus (lemon-orange) when ripe (and more so when roasted). Coriander is closely related to caraway, fennel, dill and anise. Harvest the seeds as soon as they harden and turn brown in late summer. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. The dried seeds keep for about a year.

Medicinal Uses:

The essential oil extracted from the seeds is used in flavoring, in the making of perfumes and medicinally. Here are some of the medicinal benefits to incorporating coriander in your diet:

• anti-rheumatic and eases joint pains

• promotes digestion and relives indigestion and gas

• reduces abdominal swelling

• reduce fever

• aids colds

• induces perspiration

• seed extracts are added to laxatives

• as an ingredient of gripe water for babies

• chew the seeds to neutralize the smell of garlic

Put 1 tablespoon of just-roasted freshly ground coriander seeds with two pieces of dried orange peel, three slices of fresh ginger and three cups of water into a pot. Boil for five minutes then allow to steep for an additional ten minutes. Strain into teacups. Add honey if you like your tea sweet. This soothing tea is perfect when enjoyed after dinner as it aids digestion.

Culinary Uses:

Coriander seeds are more flavorful if you roast them just before grinding in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. According to Fortin, “Whole or ground coriander add flavor to a wide range of foods, including seafood, fish, rice, meats, omelets, potatoes, cheeses, curries, marinades, chutneys, cookies, cakes and gingerbread. They go well with parsley, lemon and ginger, and are included in curry powder and garam masala (essential spice mixture in Indian cuisine). Coriander is used to make balm water and liquors such as Chartreuse and Izarra, and is an ingredient of inferior-quality cocoa (1996: p. 490).”

Coriander seeds go very well with apples. Try the freshly roasted crushed seeds in the topping for apple crumble to give an age-old dessert new life. ~Brown

For generations, British children have been rewarded with “comfits”. These sugar-coated pink or white candies withstood sucking for a long time. When the sugar coating was gone, what remained in the middle was a coriander seed. Coriander seeds is also found in the middle of jaw breakers. ~Lois Hole

One of my nosy neighbors peeking in to see what I was up to today…


Brown, D. (2001). Herbal: The Essential Guide to Herbs for Living. Pavilion Books: London.

Creasy, R. (2000). The Edible Asian Garden. Periplus Enterprises Ltd.: Boston, MA.

Fortin, J. (1996). The Visual Food Encyclopedia. Les Editions: Quebec.

Hole, L. (2000). Herbs & Edible Flowers: Gardening for the Kitchen. Hole’s: St. Alberta, Alberta.

Lu, H. C. (1996). The Chinese System of Using Foods to Stay Young. Sterling Publishing: New York.