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Parsley - An Easy Growing, Under Appreciated Herb

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Flat-leaf or Italian Parsley

Flat-leaf or Italian Parsley

Photo courtesy iffet s,en / stock.xchng

Overview:

Parsley is a biennial plant, but it is usually grown as an annual because it bolts to seed so quickly the second year. Although parsley is a very attractive plant, it is generally grown as a culinary herb and often wasted as a garnish or plate decoration. Parsley can be difficult to start from seed, but the established seedlings are easy, quick growers.

Latin Name:

Curly-leaved - Petroselinum (var. crispum)
Flat-leaved: Petroselinum (var. filicinum)

Exposure:

Full Sun / Partial Shade

Mature Size:

Varies with variety:

Height: 12 to 18 inches (30 - 45cm).
Width: 9 to 12 inches (22 - 30cm)

Days to Harvest:

Seed germinates in 21 - 28 days. Seed grown plants ready to harvest in 12 - 14 weeks.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

Description:

For years, all we knew about parsley was that curly, bitter sprig at the side of our food in restaurants. Parsley is a leafy herb that adds more freshness than flavor to dishes. As such, it is best used fresh and added at the end of cooking, although dried parsley is better than no parsley in the off season. Curly leaved parsley is a little bitter for some palettes and the flat-leaved or Italian parsleys are more in favor with today’s cooks.

Harvesting:

You can begin harvesting parsley when it is about 6" tall and relatively full. Cut as needed, but try not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaves at a time. Harvest whole stems, from the base of the plant, to encourage more growth.

You can cut and dry the leaves remaining at the end of the season or leave the plants in the ground and try to get more use from the plants the following spring. Although parsley is biennial, most people find the leaves too bitter the second year and the flower stalks will grow surprisingly fast. However, they may hold you over until your new crop is mature enough to harvest.

Suggested Varieties:

Parsley is generally designated as either Flat-leaf (sometimes called Italian) or Curly (sometimes called moss). Most chefs think the flat-leaf types are more flavorful and curly parsley is relegated to the side of the plate. Try both. If you have a savory tooth, you might just find curly parsley preferable.

Growing Tips:

Starting parsley from seed is slow. It can take several weeks for the seeds to germinate. Pre-chilling the seed in the refrigerator and then soaking the seed overnight in warm water, before planting, helps speed the process slightly and gives better germination results.

Seed can be started indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date or sown outdoors, once the ground can be worked. Plant in a rich, loamy soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Parsley can tolerate wet soils, once established, but to thrive it needs good drainage.

Sow rows about 10-12" apart, barely covering the seed. Thin plants to every 6", once they are about 1-3" tall.

Parsley can be grown fairly well in pots, however parsley has a tap root that can get fairly long and a mature plant can easily reach 2-3' in height and 1-2' in width, so a large pot is needed.

Parsley is sometimes recommended as an edging plant or an accent foliage plant. While parsley is very attractive, be aware that it is also popular with some small animals.

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