I have finally completed the coriander seed harvesting project and the results are far better than I had anticipated. To be honest after looking at and tasting these fresh seeds I have forever changed my mind about how I will look for and purchase spices. The project did take longer than I had originally planned. I can not say though that it had to take this long I think I error-ed more to the side of to much time instead of not enough. The way I was thinking was, what is the worst that can happen to something that you are drying out if you dry it out to long? The answer is nothing in this case. I believe I could have allowed the seeds to sit in their brown paper bag for the entire summer and nothing different would have happened.
Taking the bag off the wall I could already hear some of the seeds rustling around in the bottom. I gave it a few good shakes and then one more for good measure and cut the bottom of the bag open. By the way, in case you were wondering, the shaking of the bag does not work as well as I had thought it would.
Many of the seeds remained attached to the branches of the plant. So after a little more coercion I finally had all of the seeds removed and in the bowl in front of me. What I saw was pure beauty. Little golden parcels of coriander surrounded by bits of dark green and brown leaves and stems. It was what I imagine a gold miner sees when panning for gold in a river. The feeling of accomplishment, excitement, and satisfaction, the first image of the treasure he has been waiting for. It reminded me of a fall harvest, the deep gold, brown, and green colors.
From there I placed all of the contents of the bowl into a wire mesh strainer and patiently worked the mass round and round slowly cleaning the seeds from the dried stems. Finally all I had left in the strainer (almost only at least) were small golden brown coriander seeds of all sizes. I pulled my store bought bottle out of the spice drawer and proceeded to examine the two side by side. The seeds I harvested are not as uniform as the ones I purchased as they vary in size, but their color is much more vibrant that what I bought. Then for the ultimate test, the taste. The taste difference is why I say I have changed my views of purchasing fresh spices.
The seeds I harvested compared to the seeds I bought were worlds apart. The harvested seeds are complex. They have the taste of coriander that one would expect but that is the second thing that you taste, the first is fresh cilantro (which I guess would make sense but is something I have not tasted in coriander as of yet). After you taste the cilantro, then the coriander, your nose and mouth are finally filled with a pleasant aroma of fresh lemon peel without the bitterness. The results amazed me, the taste being so different. One of the questions I have now is how will toasting these seeds off affect their flavor? My experience is that when you toast of coriander seeds they pick up a nutty flavor and a more intense coriander taste with just hints of citrus. With the fresh flavors I have in these seeds already I am not sure where the roasting will take them or if I want to toast them at all. After this project has gone so well I can not wait for the fennel to go to seed because I can only imagine the taste difference in that.
— matt bolus