by Sheryl Kleinschmidt, Somervell County Master Gardener
If you were around in the sixties, you are most likely familiar with Simon & Garfunkel’s folksy tune, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”. My eldest brother thinks this is an actual recipe and won’t grill a steak without these four ingredients!
I’m not a fan of sage, rosemary and thyme as spices, but parsley is at the top of my “must have” herbs in the garden. Late last fall I was concerned that my parsley would not survive the winter and divided my plant into two parts. One part stayed in the herb garden on the south side of the house and the other I put into a pot and brought inside.
This particular plant is the curly variety and was very healthy at the time it was divided. At the onset of winter, the outdoor parsley waned a bit and I assumed it would eventually succumb to the elements. The indoor pot was alive but turning yellowish even though it was in a sunny window.
Much to my surprise, though, even after a snowfall, the outdoor parsley remained green and did not die. When spring finally did arrive, that little plant jumped into action and thrived. It has now sent up several long stems which have greenish/white flowers on them. My research tells me that after the seeds mature, the plant generally dies. I’m going to miss my parsley, but intend to plant the seeds.
These two plants have generated enough leaves for all my culinary usage for almost two years now. I especially like the flavor in soups, stews and chicken recipes.
Information from Wikipedia says that garden parsley (Petroselinum crispum) grows as a biennial. In the first year, it grows numerous leaves and a taproot which it uses as food during the winter. After flowering, as I’ve already stated, it generally dies. In subtropical and tropical areas, it grows as an annual.
Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil in full sunlight. It is happiest in mild temperatures (72-86 F). It is a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly and bees are attracted to the flowers. Finches enjoy the seeds.
Leaf parsley comes in flat-leaf as well as curly-leaf. Flat-leaved (also called Italian) is a little more tolerant of weather conditions and has a stronger flavor. It has also naturalized in some places such as England and Scotland where it grows on old walls and rocks.
Like many of our herbs, parsley originated in the Mediterranean countries and was brought to the Americas by our ancestors. I, for one, am thankful.