Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a popular biennial plant with bright green feathery leaves that comes from the same family as dill.
There are two different types of parsley – flat leaf and curly (also known as ‘Italian Parsley’). Parsley can be easily grown in gardens as an annual and if you live in an apartment, parsley can be grown successfully on verandas and kitchen windowsills!
Parsley is native to central and eastern Mediterranean but can be successfully grown in most parts of Europe. Parsley is widely used in European and Middle Eastern cooking and adding parsley to a dish means that it is unnecessary to also add salt.
Freshly cut parsley is the best type to use but dried parsley is also widely available. If you have any spare pieces of parsley left over, you can successfully freeze it with water in an ice cube tray.
How to grow parsley
- Before planting parsley seeds, it is best to soak them in water overnight as this speeds up germination. This should be done 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Once the seeds have been moistened. Plant a few in individual plant pots.
- Parsley is slow to grow, so if you are going to plant the seeds straight in the garden, do this three weeks before the last frost.
- Parsley likes well drained soil and will benefit from soil that has been mixed with compost.
- Plant the seeds about 20cm apart and about 1cm deep in the soil, in a very sunny or partially sunny area area with fertile and well-drained soil.
- Keep the soil moist while the seeds are germinating. Feed the parsley weekly with a plant food. It often takes up to four weeks for the young plants to appear. The parsley will not really grow quickly until the soil reaches 21ºC.
- As the plants grow, keep the soil moist and put some mulch around the plant to keep the moisture in.
- You can harvest the parsley as soon as there are three leaf segments on the stems. Parsley benefits from regular cutting.
How to use parsley?
Parsley is a popular herb for adding to sauces and salads and is great for soups. Parsley is rich in iron as well as vitamins A and B. Many cooks feel that flat leaf parsley has a better flavor.
Parsley is great in a sauce with watercress and walnuts and tastes good when added to a chicken and leek pie as well as many other meat dishes. Parsley is a classic accompaniment to all types of fish dishes and is the most popular garnish for a wide range of dishes.
Parsley is viewed as a nutritional powerhouse and so is ideal for using in smoothies. Try blending 1 teacup of fresh parsley with one chopped green apple, ½ banana, 1 chopped green pear, ½ chopped avocado, one teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of raw honey – what better way to start your day!
1/2 teacup of parsley provides 100% of the daily recommended intake of vitamins K and A and more than 50% of the recommended intake of vitamin C. Parsley is also rich in antioxidants and good for bones. It also has anti-bacterial properties.