By Master Gardener Herb Enthusiast Barbara Porsch
We haven’t talked about parsley in a long time, so let’s talk about parsley this month. It is without a doubt, the most used and least eaten herb in the world. It is always used as a plate garnish and then promptly scraped off with the remains. “But wait… There is more.”
Eat the parsley on your plate. It is like a vitamin pill; rich in vitamins A, C, and B and is a good source of calcium, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, a natural source of potassium and magnesium and reportedly fights cancer. Added bonus is that it deodorizes your breath especially after eating garlic or onions.
Parsley originated in the southeastern regions around the Mediterranean. The Greeks, whose god Hercules made his garland of parsley, also made crowns of parsley for their athletic heroes. It was strewn across tables and floors of banquet halls to absorb intoxicating fumes of wine and promote sobriety. I wouldn’t promise anything!
There are two varieties. Curley Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) makes an excellent border plant as it forms a compact fluffy green plant about 10 to 12 inches high. It is most used as the universal garnish. Flat leaf or Italian parsley (P. crispum var neapolitanum) is preferred for culinary use and grows taller with leaves that sort of look like celery leaves. It reseeds in the garden better than the curly variety.
Parsley can be planted in the garden or any flower bed that has at least morning sun. I have parsley in my full sun garden and also in landscape beds with partial shade. The seed is often slow to germinate to I suggest buying transplants in early spring or fall and then letting them reseed. If you plant from seed, soak the seeds in warm water for a day. Parsley is a true biennial as it grows leaves the first year and then blooms and reseeds the second year. Once you get it established there will be very little time in the year you won’t have it in the garden.
You can cut a bunch and put it in a glass of water like a bouquet of flowers and it will last several days on the counter or in the fridge. It freezes well, so cut a bunch, wash it and dry it well in a salad spinner and then freeze it in either a zip lock bag or a mason jar (my preference). Then you can scoop out what ever you need for cooking. Always add fresh or frozen parsley at the very end of cooking time. Don’t mess with the dried stuff from the grocers.
There are many uses for parsley besides decorating a plate. The leaves can be used in almost any type vegetable dish. Chop and toss with cooked new potatoes.
Chop and add to a pot of fresh cooked rice. A big handful of fresh leaves adds a crisp flavor to a regular old green salad. The stems are more flavorful and can be used in soups, stews and stuffings for fish and poultry. Parsley is usually always added to any pesto made out of basil or arugula.