Parsley: A Cook’s Best Friend

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A cook’s best friend, Petroselinum crispum, commonly known as curly parsley, is used in myriad ways in the kitchen.  Often discarded by diners as ‘just a garnish,’ parsley has many valuable nutrients including bet-carotene, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A and C in easily assimilated form.  Parsley has a pleasant flavour and is often used as a breath freshener particularly after eating raw garlic and onions.

Parsley is a hardy biennial or short-lived perennial and grows 10 –12 inches (24 – 30 cm) tall.  Cultivation requirements: fairly rich, moist soil, full sun or partial shade, water well during dry periods.  In the second year, yellowish-white flowers are produced.  Parsley can be treated as an annual for cooking purposes, as the first year’s leaves are superior to the later crops.  Parsley will self-sow so you can leave it where it is.  Curly parsley makes a gorgeous edging along garden beds and is attractive planted with flowers and in container gardens.  You can start the plants in the house prior to planting in the garden or you can seed it straight into the location where you want it to grow.

Parsley can be grown indoors or out.  Grow parsley from seed or you can purchase started plants at the garden centres.  I have read numerous times that it is hard to germinate parsley from seed but I have not had any problems.  If growing parsley in pots, plant in a deep pot to accommodate the long taproot.  Parsley can be brought indoors at the end of the growing season the same as other herbs.  When bringing indoors, pot up in fresh potting soil, and check for critters.  If there is an infestation, spray with a soap and water spray.

Parsley requires at least 5 hours of sunlight if grown indoors.  If you are growing it on a windowsill, parsley should be turned regularly to ensure that all sides receive sunlight.  Parsley grows well under fluorescents lights during the winter.  Hang lights 6 inches (15 cm) from the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.

In the garden, parsley can be planted near asparagus, corn, and tomatoes.  In the kitchen, parsley can be used fresh in salads, sauces, and soups.  Add to stews, stuffing, vegetable dishes, eggs, tabbouleh, dips, biscuits, omelets, rice and pasta dishes, meat, fish, shellfish, poultry – the list is endless.  Parsley can be mixed with soft cheeses such as ricotta or cottage cheese.  Chop it finely, mash into butter and serve with bread, or melt it into casseroles, scrambled eggs, or pasta.  Tie 3 sprigs of parsley, 1 sprig of thyme, and 1 bay leaf together with string to make a bouquet garni.  Add the herbs to a soup pot and pull out just before serving.

Parsley can be dried or frozen.  To store fresh parsley in the fridge, place the stems in a glass jar of cold water.  It will stay fresh for several days.
 

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