Petroselinum crispum - Parsley
It's good for your breath. Tastes great sprinkled on eggs. Makes a killer garnish. What is it? Why parsley, of course! No herb garden should be caught without this frilly green plant gracing its borders. Not only is parsley a worthy ingredient in the kitchen but it is also full of good-for-you nutrients. Being a part of the carrot family it has high levels of beta carotene and it won't even turn you orange! Parsley is a great source for vitamin B12, chlorophyll, calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits, and just about all other known nutrients. What's not to like? Well getting caught with a piece stuck between your teeth after a meal is probably not a good thing, but don't let that stop you from growing this powerhouse of the herb garden.

PROPOGATION:

Grow parsley from seed. Sow outdoors in fall or start the seed indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. Soak seeds in hot water or freeze overnight to speed germination. Believe me you want to do this or it can actually take over a month for these tough-coated seeds to sprout. Transplant while young without disturbing the taproot for best results. You can also purchase small plants from your local nursery but make sure they are first year plants or they will go to seed very quickly.

GROWING:

Plant in rich, moist, but well-drained soil in full sun to light shade eight to 12 inches apart. Mulch the plants thickly in winter to delay dieback or dig up young plants and bring them indoors to a cool, bright location. During the second year of growth, remove flower stalks to extend the foliage life.

Parsley is reputed to improve the health and fragrance of roses when grown nearby, so consider growing it as a pretty green backdrop in your rose garden. Also a good companion for tomatoes and asparagus. I grow curley leaf parsley in my herb garden not only for its vivid green color and lush appearance but as a host plant for caterpillars that will later become Swallowtail butterflies.

VARIETIES:

There are three common varieties of parsley: Italian or flat-leaf, curly, and Hamburg.

Italian or flat-leaf parsley (P. crispum var. Neapolitanum) has flat, dark green leaves with a strong, coarse flavor and edible, succulent stems. Both curly leaf and Italian are used in cooking, but the flavor of the Italian is preferable.

Curly leaf parsley (P. crispum) has leaves that curl into small frilly leaflets. It is often used as a garnish and is the variety most commonly sold even though it has less flavor than Italian parsley.

Hamburg parsley (P. c. var. Tuberosum) has a thick, celery-flavored root that has a nutty taste when boiled as a vegetable.

HARVESTING AND USES:

Pinch off parsley sprigs as needed or cut the entire plant back to dry or freeze a larger quantity of foliage. You can munch on it plain for a vitamin-rich snack and breath freshener. Make parsley butter or parsley mayonnaise; use it in almost any dish for mild flavor and rich green color.

Previous Herb of the Month:

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Thyme

Basil

Mint