Herbs for the Prairies

Coriander is a heat-loving annual herb growing 12 to 36 inches high. It has delicate fernlike foliage with pinkish white flowers in flat clusters. Both the seed and the plant are aromatic and are used both crushed and whole. The beige fruit (mistakenly called seed) is round, ribbed and/or spiked. The round fruit consists of two hemisphere-shaped seeds enclosed in the ovary wall. Coriander is used in curries, meats, beans, stews, cookies and wines as a seasoning. Its young leaves are used in Chinese, Thai, and Mexican dishes, salads, poultry dishes and soups. When we refer to the plants used for leaf production we call them cilantro - when we refer to the plant grown for fruit (seed) we call it Coriander. Coriander self seeds readily so can be present year after year in home herb gardens and fields.

Botanical, Common name, Classification(order)

  • Apiaceae ( syn: Umbelliferae) - Carrot family
  • Coriandrum sativum
  • Coriander, Chinese parsley, cilantro Coriander

Area of Origin (native or introduced)

  • Coriander is native to southern Europe and Asia. It is grown in Peru, Egypt, Africa and North America.

Area of Adaptation

  • Coriander prefers well drained loam or sandy loam soils. Coriander production in 1996 in Saskatchewan was about 5,300 ha (13,000 acres).


  • Coriander seed is also processed via steam distillation for the extractable essential oil of which d-linalool is the major constituent. The oil is then used in the perfume and food industries.


  • Stimulant, aromatic and *carminative

Chemical composition

  • Coriander fruit contains 0,75 - 1,25% essential oil and the composition is:

Terpenic alcohol

  • 70-90% d-linalol (=coriandrol), isomeric with borneol

Other constituents:

  • alpha-pinene
  • terpinene
  • limonene (=carvene)
  • p-cimene

Traditional uses

  • as a tea with the seeds to help with digestion
  • as a drug for cattle and horses
  • to disguise unpleasant medicine
  • as an ingredient in several compound preparations.


  • Use to make curry powder from ground seeds.
  • mixed in bread.
  • used in making gin and other alcoholic liqueurs
  • a common ingredient in Chinese, Thai, Mexican and east Indian cooking
  • In Thai cooking where even the roots are used.

Interesting facts and fables

  • over use of the seed may become narcotic


  • There are two types of Coriander: the large "bold" seeded and the small seeded. Saskatchewan produces mainly the large-seeded type but in the recent years producers are growing some of the small seed variety . Producers are trying the small seed variety because it is more cost effective to ship and tends to yield higher. One drawback to small seed production is the days-to-harvest which on the large seed coriander is approximately 100 days compared to the small seed which needs 120 days.
  • Coriander contains about 1% essential oil. The flavor, color and aroma of the oil depends on the region in which it is grown. It grows 12 - 36 inches high in full sun. Though Coriander grows on a fairly wide range of soils, it does best on well-drained loam and sandy-loam soils. The seed is planted with their husk. It is important to add leaves to the end of your cooking as the flavor does not last long. The fragrance of the seed changes as it dries.

To Grow

  • Coriander grows easily on a fairly wide range of soils, but does best on well-drained loam and sandy-loam soils in full sun. Start from seed outdoors.
  • Home Garden
    Plant ½ inch deep in the early spring when you would plant lettuce. The thinned plants should end up 3 to 4 inches apart. Successive seedings are important when using it as cilantro because it tends to bolt easily in hot summer days.
  • Field Production
    Plant to a depth of 2". Coriander traditionally germinates very slowly and can take as long as 21 days to emerge, with recommended planting in Saskatchewan in late April to mid May. It can handle some light frosts but cannot handle dry soils. Since it does not compete successfully with weeds, especially perennial weeds, it should be planted on clean land. Use of honey bees as pollinators can improve Coriander yields.
  • Flowers suffer if hot, dry conditions occur at bloom significantly lowing yields. Look to the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association publication, "The Grower's Guide to Herbs and Spices" for more information on adaptation and suitability of Coriander to specific areas of Saskatchewan. Coriander reseeds readily.

To Harvest

  • You need to swath Coriander when the fruit turns brown. The seeds ripen unevenly and the mature seeds may shatter from the plant You can prevent this by swathing in damp weather or heavy dew. Straight combine when this crop is fully mature and the moisture is less than 15%.
  • Coriander is a very volatile seed. It requires assistance in drying: this is not a put in the bin and forget about until time to sell crop. It requires close monitoring and aeration is vital. A seed moisture content of less than 10% is essential for safe storage. Be sure to monitor your bins for seed moisture levels!


  • Grasshoppers
  • Leaf hoppers because they transmit of *asters yellow disease.
  • *Aster yellow disease affect members of the carrot family which this is one of. It is a Phytoplasm (virus-like) disease spread by leaf hoppers. Aster yellows causes the flower to yellow. It will also cause the plant to grow taller and become sterile.
  • Root diseases, damping off and seedling rot. Look for yellowing and death of new seedlings. Crop rotation could help this problem.
  • The crop can be injured by hail or heavy rain causing lower grade of the sample. Often sooty mold will occur under these conditions.
  • One of the major problems in producing cilantro is premature flowering. Bolting becomes acute as the days get hotter and longer. A number of seed companies now offer slow-to-bolt (long-standing) Cultivars. There are significant differences among Coriander Cultivars regarding the response to premature flowering, and while some are less susceptible, none are totally unresponsive to high temperatures and long days (Simon et al. 1989)
  • Cilantro has a relatively short shelf life and requires refrigeration. Cilantro can be kept for 3 to 4 weeks at 0°C, but only 2 to 3 weeks when stored at 5°C (Cantwell 1989).
  • It should be emphasized that to minimize spoilage, cilantro requires icing (storage on ice) immediately after harvest

*carminative - plants that are rich in aromatic volatile oils that stimulate the digestive system to work properly and with ease, soothing the gut wall, reducing any inflammation that might be present, easing griping pains and helping the removal of gas from the digestive tract.

Saskatchewan Herb Database, Department of Horticulture Science , University of Saskatchewan




  • Saskatchewan Herb Database by Branka Barl, Dawn Lowen, Erling Svendsen Department of Horticulture Science January 1996
  • Sundew Moonwort, Medicinal Plants of the Prairies by Robert Dale Rogers revised January 1997
  • Culpeper's Complet Herbal and English Physician reproduction of work of Nicholas Culpeper reproduced 1981 from original edition published in 1826
  • A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve F.R.H.S. edited and introduced by Mrs. C.F. Leyel first published in 1931 with this edition published in 1973
  • The Healing Power of Herbs by Michael T. Murray N.D. Revised and expanded 1995
  • Taylor Guide to Herbs and Edible Flowers by Norman Taylor 1961 revised and edited by Gordon P. DeWolf, Jr.
  • Park's Success With Seeds by Ann Reilly with Geo.. W. Park Seed Co.,Inc. 1978
  • Reader's Digest of Complet Book of Garden by the Editors of Readers Digest 1966
  • Living with Herbs by Jo Ann Gardner 1997
  • Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening edited by Norman Taylor 1961
  • 10,000 Garden Questions editor Majorie J. Dietz 1974
  • Sunset Western Garden Book by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset magazine1991
  • Hortus Third initially compiled by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Joe Bailey, revised and expanded by the Staff of the LH.Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University
  • Herbs for Health magazine published by Interweave Press Loveland, CO. Sept. to Dec. 97
  • HerbalGram Journal of American Botanical Council and The Herb Research Foundation
  • The Herb Companion magazine published by Interweave Press Loveland, CO.

Special thanks to Branka Barl, Dr. Al Slinkard, Merv and Travis Bunnell, Doug and Melody Machmer, and several others in the industry both on the producer and research end.

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