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Growing Parsley

Parsley….as attractive as it is tasty. And a healthy addition to your diet. It is rich in antioxidants and nutrients such as Vitamin A, K, and C, Magnesium, Potassium, Folate, Iron, and Calcium. It is thought to support heart, kidney, and bone health, and even help control blood sugars. And, 2 tablespoons is only 2 calories, but supplies 12% of the RDI, 16% of Vitamin C, and 154% of vitamin K. Another good quality? It reduces the need for salt on your food.

The plant is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

The plant is most popular in European and Middle Eastern cooking, but can be used to garnish soups or pasta, and is also used in

  • Bouquet garni

  • Fines herbs

  • Crust for fish and meat

  • Egg bakes and frittatas

  • Pesto

  • Smoothies

  • Pizza

  • Bread

  • Soups and stews

  • Marinades and dressings

  • On fish, poultry, and meats

  • Added to butter

The plant has a long history, and was used in Greek antiquity in victory wreaths, and by Romans in bridal sprays to ward off evil spirits. For more trivia see “Parley provers and folklore”

In medieval Europe it was thought that only pregnant woman and witches could grow it successfully, and was thought to be a symbol of death, yet is used on the Seder plate during Passover as a symbol of life’s perpetual renewal. So it has an interesting past.

When growing Parsley, keep in mind it is an attractive border plant, and the curly leaf is appealing in hanging baskets and planters.

It is a biennial, and both the curly and the flat leafed parsley are a bright green color that can really add color to any place it is planted.

When growing the plant, you should direct sow it only after the soil has warmed up to 70%. It can take up to 4 weeks to geminate, but you can speed up germination by soaking seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. If you are starting inside, start it about 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date for your area.

Also, it can be allowed to self-seed, but again, the slow and spotty germination may not provide all that you are looking for…there are so many positives about this plant who wouldn’t want more?

Plant it is a soil that is rich in organic material, such as compost or well-rotted manure. It can also be fertilized with NPK 1-1-1, or foliage formulas that are 3-1-2 or 5-1-1. Fish fertilizer is also a great side dressing, as it provides nitrogen and promotes foliage growth.

Sow 1 inch apart and ¼” deep; keep the soil moist for the entire growing season. Thin your plants to 6” apart when the 2nd set of true leaves has emerged.

The plant is hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and will lose its leaves during freezing temperatures, but when the days start to lengthen new growth will appear. Another plus? Seed heads will help overwintering birds, and some will think this is bad. But when Chipmunks come out of hibernation they will forage in it; it all depends on whether or not you have issues with Chipmunks eating things like your strawberries!

It severe weather it can be covered with a cloche or a thick much to protect it, or it can be planted in protected areas with southern exposure, so up against a foundation will help keep it warm.

For companion planting, it can be planted with asparagus, bell peppers, the cabbage family, roses (it helps make the rose more fragrant), Peas, tomatoes, Corn and apples. It sacrificially attracts insects that feed on tomatoes and helps repel cabbage flies. It attracts swallowtail butterflies and other pollinators and is thought to enhance the taste of veggies while being a natural pest repellent.

It should not be planted with onions, garlic, chives, shallots, lettuce, or mint.

The plant is pretty hardy, with Crown and Root Rot, Botrytis Blight (Grey mold) being the most common diseases that affect Parsley, and are associated with wet soil that promotes fungal and bacterial growth. If your plants become infected, remove the damaged plants which will improve air circulation, and try to avoid overhead watering, and use a drip line instead.

When to harvest? When stems have three distinct segments. Cut from the outside, leaving the inner growth to mature.

It is also easy to preserve. The curly leaf lends itself to garnishes, drying or freezing, and the flat leaf, or Italian (P. crispum neapolitanum) is better for cooking as it has a deeper flavoring and is easier to cut on a cutting board.

Freezing allows the plant to be used for up to 8 moth (which is longer than dried). All you have to do is pack the leaves in a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air, and seal. It can also be frozen as a pesto. A pesto can be just the parsley, or the herb can be combined with other herbs such as Basil and garlic. Other additions can be pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. When preserving as a pesto put in an ice cube tray and when set transfer to a freezer bag.

Another way to freeze is rolled up into a “log”. Pack the herb tightly in a freezer bag, and while applying pressure roll into a cylinder or about 2” in diameter. Squeeze out the excess air as you go along. Secure the log with elastic bands, and cut slices off as needed.

Another option is to freeze in a jar by packing tightly in small wide mouth jars (wide mouth is critical) …seal and freeze the jar. When using the herb invert the jar and cut off a segment, then return jar to freezer. A warmed up knife can help with the cutting process.

The fresh plant can also be harvested and the bottom of the stem removed. Do not rinse the plant, and put in a glass half filled with water. Place it in the refrigerator and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Or, keep uncovered at room temperature, changing the water every 2 days. Discard the plant when the leaves start to turn brown. They can be maintained this way for up to 2 weeks

Drying the herb allows it to be preserved for up to 6 to 12 months. Tie it into bundles and hang in a well ventilated area, out of direct sunlight. Crumble and store in an air-tight container

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