The International Herb Association has chosen parsley for its 2021 Herb of the Year. Now wait . . . don’t throw this article aside like you might toss aside the parsley served by a restaurant along with your entrée. That restaurant parsley had likely been stored, shipped a long distance, and stored again before it hit your plate, rendering it tasteless, and without any vestige of its original fresh smell and nutritional value.
Parsley fresh from the garden is a whole other experience! And it’s one of the easiest herbs to grow besides.
Buying plants from the nursery is the easiest way to procure parsley for the garden. They need a sunny spot, supplemental water until they become established, and that’s about it. Starting parsley from seed is also possible, but germination takes about six weeks, stretching the patience of even the most experienced gardener. The seeds need a period of cold in order to germinate so they can be planted either in fall or very early spring, or the seed packet can be placed in the refrigerator for several weeks before planting outdoors. To speed germination, soak the seeds in warm water overnight before planting, or pour boiling water over them after they are in the ground.
Parsley can be harvested a few stems at a time as soon the leaves reach full size. Harvest from the outside of the plant by snipping stems low on the plant with a scissors. The plant will continue to produce new growth from its middle.
Parsley has either flat or curly leaves. The curly-leafed variety is what you usually find on your restaurant plate, but flat-leaved parsley is actually tastier. Both are nutrient packed, with more vitamin C per volume than an orange, along with vitamin A, several B vitamins, calcium and iron.
Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning that it grows and produces leaves during its first season and goes to seed its second year. You can pot it up and bring it indoors at the end of its first season to stretch the harvest, but it will still go to seed the second year.
Probably parsley was originally placed on entrée plates for its decorative aspect and as an after-dinner breath freshener and those uses are still valid. It also can be added to salads or sandwiches, or sprinkled over egg dishes, potato salad, soups, dips, fish and boiled potatoes. It enhances the flavor of cooked dishes but should be added near the end of cooking time. Stems are more strongly flavored than leaves and can perk up a bland dish nicely.
Flat-leaf parsley can be dried in the shade or carefully in a dehydrator. When it is crispy, store it in an airtight container. Storing whole leaves and crushing them just before use will preserve the flavor longer. Curly-leaf parsley can be frozen on cookie sheets and then stored in the freezer in plastic freezer bags.