Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dried Origanums and Coriander Seeds

I grow a fair number of herbs in my garden. Lucky me, I live in a mild climate so there is always something to harvest to add interest to the dishes that I prepare so I don't feel the need to preserve much of anything. Sure, I miss the flavor of basil when it is out of season, but I so much prefer it fresh that even when I do bother to freeze or dry it I generally pass up the preserved stuff in favor of another seasoning that is fresh. However, there are a few herbs that I find to be excellent or even superior when they are dried. 

 The one herb that I really prefer dried to fresh is anything in the Origanum family. At the moment I'm growing Sweet Marjoram, three strains of Syrian Oregano (aka Zatar Oregano), and I think there's a plant or two of Wild Oregano volunteering somewhere in the garden. Fresh oregano has a hotness or harshness to it that I don't enjoy, but the hotness disappears when the leaves are dried. Oregano is also one leafy herb that doesn't seem to lose much of its flavor when it is dried, so for me, dried oregano is a staple in my stable of seasonings.

Sweet Marjoram sprigs laid out to dry.

This morning I noticed that my Sweet Marjoram is starting to develop flower buds which indicates the optimal time for harvesting for drying. I snipped a handful of sprigs and laid them out on a flat basket and brought them indoors to dry at room temperature. I have a dehydrator but don't use it to dry leafy herbs, I think that the flavor is superior when the leaves are slowly dried indoors. This method probably won't work in a humid climate, but one of the benefits of my mild climate is that it is very dry, except at night when the fog rolls in but that's why I don't try to dry anything outside.

Another herb (or is it a spice when collected in seed form) that I love is coriander seed. I mentioned in my previous post that I had a doh! moment recently regarding coriander seed. Not long ago I discovered how tasty fresh green coriander seed is. But the harvest time is fleeting, just as it is for the leaves of the plant during the warm months of the year. Fresh cilantro is actually a long producing plant in my garden through the winter, but that's another story. When I had to pull out my cilantro/coriander plants this spring to put in my summer crops I harvested all the green seeds that I could and not knowing what else to do with them I let them dry. Well, it turned out that the dried green coriander was far more aromatic and flavorful than the seeds that I had always allowed to dry on the plants. Now my spring sown cilantro is in full bloom and loaded with seeds and I've been harvesting the umbels with the fattest seeds and laying them out on a basket tray and letting them dry indoors.

Green coriander seeds in various stages of dryness.

The one mistake that I made earlier this year when I cleaned out the cilantro/coriander plants and harvested the seeds was that I stripped the seeds off of the umbels while they were still green which bruised a lot of the green seeds so that they turned almost black when they dried. They still tasted great but they weren't all that pretty. This time I am allowing the seeds to dry on the umbels and then I'll strip the umbels when the seeds are dry.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of harvesting green coriander seed for drying until recently. I've been using the same method of harvesting ripe green seeds from fennel plants for a few years because that produces the best tasting fennel seed. Well, I've finally figured it out... I suppose it would work for cumin seeds, if only I could grow cumin, but it doesn't like my climate. Darn, I love cumin.

So, last week I made Michael Chiarello's Forever Roasted Pork that features his Fennel Spice Rub. It's a great way to use a lot of the dried fennel and coriander seeds that I've got in the pantry.

Do you have any favorite recipes that use dried coriander seeds?


  1. I keep trying to grow cumin to no avail. And I always use a dehydrator for my herbs. I really think they would mold rather than dry if I didn't.

  2. I use dried coriander seeds in the filling for potato samosas. Recipe is in the moosewood cookbook.

  3. I am glad to hear someone else actually prefers dried oregano to fresh. I thought I was weird but honestly I really do prefer the preserved over fresh for that particular herb. We have been enjoying the fresh basil and dill but I ripped out alot of my other herbs earlier this year and have yet to replace them. I know ... shameful!

  4. Hmmm. That's really thought-provoking. Yes, I'd push toward Indian food, but I find that I tend to under-use spices. I did nibble some green ones after your last post, so that was inspiring.


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