A Guide To Parsley

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Parsley is a member of the same family as celery and is native to the Mediterranean region. Parsley finds a decorative place on the plate, and it is high in chlorophyll, which makes it an excellent breath freshener. There are three types of parsley:

  • Flat leaf or Italian parsley is the best parsley to dry for later use because of its strong taste.
  • Curly leaf parsley has a thick textured, dark green leaf which is perfect for freezing.
  • Parsnip rooted parsley is grown much like carrots. Both the leaves and the root are edible. It can be cubed and added to stews and soups much like carrots or parsnips.


How To Grow Parsley

Parsley enjoys a variety of soil types and sun exposures. For best results, plant parsley in well-drained soil and in an area that receives full to partial sun. Parsley can be started from seed or grown from a transplant. When growing from seed, plant in early spring for a summer harvest and in the fall for an early spring harvest. When growing parsley, follow these guidelines:

  • Plant seeds in the spring after the last frost and when the soil has warmed up. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and space plants 6 inches apart. Seeds can be slow to germinate.
  • To help seeds germinate, soak for 24 hours before planting.
  • Use as a companion plant to help the growth of roses and tomatoes.
  • Parsley is a biennial. To have plants the following year, allow one or two plants to produce seed late in the summer.
  • If the plant begins to grow a flower stalk, remove the stalk to continue growing parsley leaves.
  • In cold climates, cut parsley to ground level late in the fall, dig the plants out of the ground and place in a protected area during the winter.
  • If growing parsley indoors, place in a cool location that is well-lit.
  • Parsley is susceptible to crown rot, carrot weevils and parsley worms.

Harvesting & Storing Parsley

Once the parsley plant is well established, leaves can be harvested throughout the season as the plant is growing. To harvest parsley, bunch the stalks and leaves together and cut off with a sharp knife or scissors a couple of inches from the ground. This allows the younger inner leaves to continue growing.

When purchasing parsley from a produce market, only buy as much parsley as will be used within a few days. Also, keep parsley separate from other groceries, especially household cleaners and raw meats.

Look For Parsley That Has:

  • A bright green color. Poor or light colored parsley will turn brown and soft quickly.
  • A fresh smell. A bad odor may indicate that the parsley is moldy.
  • Looks clean. Do not purchase parsley that is dried out, looks damaged or has brown leaves.

Tips For Storing Parsley:

  • Wash parsley before use. Remove damaged stems and wash under clean running water. Turn and shake the parsley while it is being washed.
  • To refrigerate: Wash and dry the leaves. Place in a plastic bag, glass jar or other airtight container. Keep herbs away from raw meats so that the meat juice will not drip on the herbs. Toss herbs that begin to turn brown or spoil in the garbage or compost pile.
  • To dry: Wash and dry the leaves. Let air dry completely in a warm and well-ventilated area. Bunches can be hung upside down or spread out on a wire screen. Remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container in a cool place.
  • To freeze: Wash and dry the leaves. Place in small freezer bags or containers. Will keep in the freezer for up to one year. Parsley can also be chopped, blended in water or stock and frozen in an ice cube tray.

Uses For Parsley

Here are some different ways in which parsley is used:

  • Nutrition. Parsley contains vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and iron.
  • Pest control. Attracts rabbits and repels head lice.
  • Cold sauce for meat. Puree parsley, garlic, olive oil and ricotta cheese.
  • Persillade. Finely mince parsley and garlic. Add to sautés and grilled meats during the last minute of cooking.
  • Cooking substitute. Use parsley instead of chervil.
  • Landscaping. Use as a border or edging in herb gardens and ornamental beds.
  • Companion planting. Plant parsley near asparagus.
  • Attracts Black Swallowtail butterflies.
  • Bathing. Add an infusion of parley to the water for a cleansing bath.
Last Updated: August 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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