Coriander, also known as dhania or Cilantro, is a multipurpose crop used in cooking in many Kenyan households. Coriander is majorly grown for leaves, but some farmers extend this to produce seeds.
Coriander leaves are rich in vitamin A, C and K, with a moderate content of dietary minerals. Seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, and provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.
How to grow Dhania
Select high quality seeds for high yields. There are two kinds of seeds: seeds meant for seed production and a different variety for leaf production. A seed variety will produce seeds quicker than a leaf variety. Once the seeds have grown, the leaf production will stop.
Coriander does well in temperatures of between 18 to 25 degrees Centigrade. It requires well-drained loam soil with a pH of 6-8.
Land preparation for planting dhania
Choose a flat area where coriander or other crops of this family have not been planted for 3 to 6 months Dig out all perennial plant roots and till the land to a fine.
Prepare raised beds of 1.5m width and any preferred length. Mix soil with well decomposed manure and level the bed using a rake.
Avoid seedbeds as transplanted dhania tends to seed earlier. Instead sow seeds directly in the beds 0.6 to 1.2 cm deep, 20cm between seeds and 20cm between rows.
Cover lightly with soil and mulch using dry grass.
Water lightly after planting and regularly thereafter. Coriander enjoys moderate sun but also needs some shade during the hottest part of the day.
Plants stressed by hot weather will seed quickly, so try water twice each day.
Germination takes one to two weeks. Thin young plants to 20cm apart in order to get the full-leafy plants that most consumers prefer.
It is not necessary to feed coriander if the soil is well nourished. However, if the plants start turning yellow, the organic foliar fertiliser should be applied.
Plant every three weeks to ensure that you have a continuous supply.
Diseases and pests
Coriander is sometimes attacked by pests like Thrips, Aphids and Whiteflies. Diseases that may affect it are Fusarium wilt, Powdery mildew, Stem rot, Damping off and Soft rot.
Coriander matures in four to six weeks. Most farmers uproot the mature plant and clean it for the market. Harvest the leaves when the plant is big and robust.
If coriander is grown for seed, the farmer should wait until all plants have formed seeds and flowers are fully dry.
Cut the stems and place the heads of coriander in a tapeline to dry well under controlled temperatures. You can also tie the stems into bunches and hang them upside down in a cool dry place. Wait for three weeks then shake to get the seeds. The dry seeds are ready for sale or replanting. Keep them in a clean and dry place.