How many times have you carefully looked at the green shade of coriander or felt its texture? Because it is such a universal ingredient in food dishes and readily available, this versatile herb cum spice is undervalued.
Gopal Dutt Upreti, an organic farmer from Uttarakhand’s Bilkesh village (Ranikhet), also never paid any attention to his coriander plants until they entered the Guinness Book of World Records on 21 April this year.
The 47-year-old’s coriander plant received the title of ‘world’s tallest coriander plant’ with a height of 7.1 feet (2.16 metres) using traditional ‘Himalayan farming techniques’.
In an interesting twist, Gopal revealed to me that his record-breaking coriander was there only to save his apple orchards from pest attacks and insects. He never intended to popularise his coriander variety, let alone make a world record.
“Coriander is easy to grow and gives flowers that attract butterflies and bees. At the same time, it acts as an insect repellent for flies, mosquitoes and fruit flies. Seeing the benefits, I planted coriander in 2015, and the rest is history,” Gopal tells The Better India.
According to Gopal, neither did he use any special methods, nor did he add any secret ingredients to enhance the height of the plants. In fact, he claims he only realised they were different when farmers in the village and visitors were amazed at the unusual height.
“The average height of coriander in India is 2-3 feet, and in 2018 the height of my plant touched 5 feet. On my friend’s encouragement, I applied for the Limca Book of Records and got the title. For Guinness, I had to compete against a 5.9-foot tall plant, so I waited for mine to grow,” he says.
Gopal has now applied for a patent on his seed variety, which was procured right from his kitchen.
The engineer-turned-farmer quit his lucrative career in civil construction in 2015 after he was mesmerized by organic farming practice on his visit to Europe in 2012.
Though his ancestors once practised traditional farming, the newer generation switched to corporate jobs for a stable income. Gopal too migrated to Delhi in the 1980s.
Gopal spent three years to learn about the latest farming technologies, market rates, soil conditions in his village and so on.
He started farming on 3 acres of land and gradually expanded to 8 acres. Today, he has 2,000 apple trees in his orchard and hundreds of coriander plants. Besides this, he also grows turmeric and garlic.
All You Need to Know About Growing A Tall Coriander Plant
The best part about growing coriander is that it can be grown in any weather conditions, from Rajasthan’s heat to Mumbai’s humidity to Shimla’s freezing temperatures. If the temperatures soar exponentially, it can be kept cool via mulching.
Gopal recommends sowing coriander directly in pots, “Sow the seeds about half to one inch deep in the soil. Keep a space of 5-6 inches between 2 seeds. Water the plants regularly but refrain from over-watering to avoid root rot. Make sure there are sufficient drainage holes as coriander has deep taproots.”
The harvesting may take up to 3 weeks, but if you want to extend the period and get taller plants, then Gopal suggests snipping soft stems and rotating the plant.
Soil fertility is the deciding factor for coriander’s growth. It has to be kept moist, and feeding rich nutrients is a must. Gopal uses everything from a neem cake, jeevamruth, bichu ghas (nettle) to compost.
Gopal gives a detailed explanation about growing conditions here:
By using simple methods like seed preservation and composting, Gopal grew the coriander trees. Each plant gives about 500 grams of seeds, as against 20-50 grams from regular ones.
Gopal has preserved around a thousand seeds in an airtight container, which he plans to distribute to farmers and agriculturists in the future.
You can reach Gopal Dutt at: Gopaldupreti@yahoo.co.in
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)