Photo by Swanksalot
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) basically falls into one of two categories; Italian (flat) or French (curly). While they’re both hardy biennials, meaning they flower and go to seed every other year, like many herbs and vegetables, they’re usually grown as annuals.
The general feeling among gardeners is that the French curly parsley is planted for decorating culinary dishes, while the strong-flavored, Italian flat parsley (P. crispum var. neapolitanum) is grown for flavor, although the curly parsley is useful for cooking, as well. Both types deserve a place in the kitchen garden as there aren’t many dishes that won’t be enhanced by this pungent herb. Parsley finds its way into sauces, rice, vegetable dishes, stews, eggs, cheese spreads, fish dishes, and more.
Hamburg parsley (var. tuberosum) is a third parsley variety that’s not nearly as popular as its cousins. While its greens are certainly used in cooking, it’s the Hamburg’s roots that take center stage. The root of Hamburg parsley is used as a winter vegetable much like parsnips – and it resembles them, too. Its flavor is described as a cross between celery and parsley. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise as all parsley and celery are family — along with carrots. The word “petroselinum” is Greek for “rock celery”.
Photo by wikioticslan
Parsley may fancy-up dishes, but it isn’t just another pretty face; its benefits go way beyond the palate. Historically and today, parsley is heralded for its nutritional value:
• Flavinoids in which some are anti-oxidants that neutralize free-radicals. Some of these have been shown to prevent (or slow) development of certain cancers.
• Diuretic and stimulator of the kidneys which help clear toxic compounds from the body.
• Anti-inflammatory properties
• Histamine inhibitors
• Great source of vitamin A
• Parsley contains three times the amount of vitamin C as oranges do (pound for pound). Although, the flat-leaved carries more than the curly-leafed variety.
• Properties that freshen breath
Parsley in the Garden
Parsley is at its best when grown fresh every year. But the stubborn seeds are notoriously slow to germinate. In fact, in 1883, it was said that parsley “has to go to the devil and back again before it will sprout” or “parsley has to go to the devil nine times and often forgets to come back.”
Photo by digipam
In any case, due to the long germination period, gardeners very often choose to start them indoors 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost. This way, by the time the soil has warmed up, they’re already little baby parsleys ready to transplant into their permanent bed. If you’re not into starting plants early indoors, no worries; they can be seeded directly in the garden in the early spring. Depending on the variety, parsley will grow anywhere from 6″ to 3′ tall.
To help things along, soak the seeds for 24 hours before they’re planted. Another tip for speeding up germination is to pour boiling water over the soil or soil-less medium. These tiny seeds can be sprinkled sparsely and covered by only 1/4 inch or soil. Ideally, the soil should be at about 70 degrees or higher and uniformly moist. While parsley is actively growing in your garden, it likes soil that falls a little on the acidic side. It prefers full sun where climates are cool, but tolerates light shade in hot areas.
Parsley leaves can be picked or cut from the plant whenever they’re needed in the kitchen. After harvesting, it can be kept placed into air-tight baggies and frozen, or be dried and stored. For gardeners with limited space, it takes well to life in pots on porches, as well as indoors in sunny windowsills.
Photo by Howard O. Young