In keeping with the vegetable theme, I thought that we would look at an herb today. Today’s Plant Profile is about parsley. While you may think of parsley as that little green garnish that arrives on the plate with your seafood, parsley offers so much more. It is a biennial herb, which means that it flowers its second year and sets seed. To me, this is essentially like getting a buy-one-get-one free at the grocery store; you plant it once and you get two years of use out of it. I like BOGOs at the grocery store and I like them even more in the garden.
Let’s first look at starting the plants from seed. Parsley is notoriously slow to germinate and if I were you, I would go ahead and start some seeds now instead of waiting closer to the last frost date. I would also either sow them twice as thick (at least 4 seeds per plug) or sow twice as many plugs as you need…I have never attained anymore than 60-70% germination with parsley. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still grow it; it just means that I compensate accordingly. Parsley is also one of the plants that must have darkness to germinate so make sure you cover it when sowing the seeds. Once it has germinated, it will look more like grass than parsley but give it time…it will develop into a miniature version of the full grown plant in a couple of weeks.
In the garden, parsley should be planted in full sun but it will take a little more shade than other herbs. You may sacrifice some foliage production but chances are that if you are planting it in shade, you don’t have very much sun to begin with. Once it is established, it can tolerate drought and makes an easy plant to grow. Parsley is similar to cut and come again greens in that if you cut it back, it will resprout more leaves for you to harvest later. Another beautiful part of growing parsley is that it will remain perfectly green through all but the hardest frosts which means that you can have vitamin rich leaves to add to most dishes.
Parsley is rich in Vitamins A and C. Even if the flavor of parsley isn’t desired, it’s a great idea to tie a bunch together and allow it to simmer in soups for 10 minutes or so at the end. Sally Fallon, of Nourishing Traditions fame, recommends adding it in this manner when making highly nutritious and delicious chicken stock. For those of you that are seeking a truly heart healthy diet, be sure to obtain a copy of Nourishing Traditions and check out the Weston A. Price Foundation. See, there’s one of those tangents again.
If you have more parsley than you can eat, consider dehydrating it (I use an Excalibur dehydrator) and saving it for later. Instead of buying the little jars of parsley for $3 in the grocery store, dehydrate your own and throw an oxygen absorber into a mason jar. If the jars are kept at room temperature and out of direct light, you’ll have parsley that will last you for years.
There are two main types of parsley and they are Italian parsley and Triple Curly. Italian parsley is a flat leaved variety that produces the best flavor whereas Triple Curly has a fancy, crinkly leaf that makes a beautiful garnish. Both of them are a larval food for Black Swallowtails which comes as an added bonus. Parsley is such a versatile plant that belongs in everyone’s garden or perennial border. Let me know your experiences by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to Like my Facebook page…you can use the link above to get you there quickly. Happy gardening!