Herb Garden Plants – Parsley and The Devil Petroselinum crispum (Umbelliferae)
All forms of the herb garden plants generically called parsley are grown as annuals, although strictly speaking they are biennial plants. By removing the flower heads the productive life of the plants can be extended and the quality of the foliage flavour maintained.
The most familiar ones are the frilly curled-leaved sort (called French curly-leaved parsley in America) – herb garden plants beloved by fishmongers as a garnish. The plain-leaved kind, P.C. Neapolitanum called Italian plain-leaved parsley in America, has a more pronounced flavour and is preferred by some cooks, especially for long slow cooking.
Taste this iron and vitamin-rich plant and you will discover the refreshing flavour. It deserves better than to be labelled a garnish – its fine flavour is exploited by knowing chefs to create magical results. Used globally in bouquet garni, sauce verte and sauce tartare, or as a tonic and diuretic in the form of a tea. Hamburg parsley – P.C.Tuberosum – has plain non-curly leaves – the roots are harvested as a winter crop and eaten as a vegetable.
First known usage of these herb garden plants is recorded around the area of the Black Sea. Because of its slow germination, popular folklore about herb garden plants has it that parsley seed goes nine times to the devil and back before germinating.
Best sown in mid to late spring as a border in either the herb garden or a flower bed. Germination can be unbelievably slow – around six to eight weeks.Try soaking the seed overnight. Damp the growing medium before sowing. Thin the sprouts to about 30cms (1ft) apart. In temperate regions parsley should be sown from early spring to autumn (fall).
Trim the floral shoots as they develop to prevent drooping as well as preserving the flavour. Parsley does not dry or freeze well; its fresh colour and leafy appeal as a garnish are lost by drying or freezing, although flavour can still be good. Like many herb garden plants, parsley does well in containers; keep containers near the kitchen for easy access.
Pete Steel has grown herbs for 25 years in several different climates and soils.