Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
About ParsleyParsley is a hardy biennial grown as an annual and is widely known as a culinary herb. There are more than 30 varieties; the most commonly used is the curly leaf and the most pungent is the Italian or flat-leafed. The leaves are used in a variety of recipes from hot casserole dishes to cold entree salads, and can be used either freshly cut or dried and ground.
Site PreparationWhen planting parsley seeds, the soil must be warm (60 to 85 degrees F) and kept constantly moist to allow the seeds to germinate. This is best accomplished in a planter tray indoors until the seeds have grown into young plants. The parsley can then be placed into a garden that has partial sunlight, and where the soil is kept moist regularly.
Special FeaturesParsley grows from the core of the plant outward, giving it the appearance of a small bush. It produces deep green crinkled leaves that can be eaten as a garnish to main meals, either fresh or dried.
Choosing a VarietyThere are three common varieties of parsley.
* Forest Green Parsley, the most commonly grown, has forest green colored leaves and grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches.
* Italian Dark Green Parsley is a more selective plant with deeply cut, bright green leaves. This variety is known to have better flavor than the other varieties. It grows to a height of 12 to 24 inches.
* Italian Organic Parsley is flat-leafed parsley used in Mediterranean cooking, and has a stronger flavor than other varieties of parsley.
PlantingParsley grows well in a wide variety of soils and sun exposures. Plant the seeds in the spring after the last frost by first soaking them overnight in water to increase the germination rate. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart, and in rows about 12 to 18 inches apart in the garden.
CareParsley plants need to be regularly pruned to enable new leaves to mature. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet.
Harvesting and StorageA regular harvesting throughout summer is needed to keep the plant producing. Parsley plants grow from the centre outwards, so begin by picking the large, outer leaves on a regular basis. These leaves can be dried and ground or chopped and stored in closed containers. Keep the containers in a cool, dark place and the parsley will retain its flavor for many months.