Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

November, 2003
Regional Report

Local Buzz

Lawns Still Need Attention
Fertilize lawns with slow-release nitrogen for gradual, consistent feeding all winter long. Continue to mow the lawn as long as it still grows to encourage branching of individual grass plants for a thicker, healthier lawn that chokes out weeds. Rake leaves off the lawn to allow air, light, and fertilizer to reach the soil surface.

Favorite or New Plant

Cilantro
Cilantro, coriander, Mexican parsley, and Chinese parsley are all the same plant -- Coriandrum sativum. The green, leafy part is the herb cilantro, which adds a distinctive flavor to Mexican food. The dried seedpod is called coriander, usually used as a spice in baked goods.

Cilantro is an annual plant that grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Leaves are light, bright green. Tiny, white to pinkish flowers form in mid to late summer. It's one of the most ancient herbs still cultivated. We also love it in our gardens because it attracts beneficial insects.

All parts of the plant go well with mushrooms, tomatoes, stews, pilafs, lentils, pasta, and curries. But to some people, cilantro tastes like soap!

Growing Tips
Cilantro/coriander thrives in moderately rich, light, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.6, in full to partial sun. Sow it where it will grow to maturity, as the taproots (like parsley) are long and seedlings are difficult to transplant successfully.

Sow seeds in the fall or early spring. They may require soaking in warm water for several hours, cracking, or scarifying before planting. Sow them half an inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 12 to 15 inches apart. Germination may take 14 days or longer at 55 degrees. When 4 to 6 inches tall, thin plants to 6 to 8 inches apart.

Seed sown in spring will bloom in nine to ten weeks and produce seed late in summer. As a winter crop, seed sown in fall will produce seed in late spring. It's best grown as a cool-season crop, because it bolts with the slightest warmth of late spring or early fall. For continuous cropping, reseed every three weeks through cool weather.

Do not overfertilize; too much nitrogen produces less flavorful foliage and may delay the ripening of the seed. Plants grow best with even moisture and fairly consistent temperatures during a growing season of 90 to 100 days.

Harvesting Leaves and Seed
Harvest fresh leaves once the plants are at least 8 inches tall by pulling the entire plant or cutting outer leaves, allowing the inner growing point to continue producing foliage until plants go to seed. Dried leaves lose their fragrance, but can be frozen for use later.

Harvest coriander seed when the entire plant is dried and crisp but before seedpods break open and scatter seed. Cut the whole plant, threshing it out for further drying. Or hang it to dry, gathering the seed as it falls. Seed that has not been dried has a bitter taste.

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