Growing Parsley for the Kitchen Garden
Parsley is a herb that no kitchen garden should be without.
It prefers a light position in eitherfull sun or light shade but the parsley plant (Petroselinum) will happily grow in almost any soil.
Grown from seed, the parsley plant can be stubborn to germinate, taking anything from 3 to 6 weeks for the first green bud to come through the soil.
Soaking the seeds overnight in water before planting can speed up the process.
I’ve always found it better to plant parsley seeds in a compost-filled tray or pot, leave on a sunny windowsill or greenhouse shelf, don’t allow the soil to dry out, and transplant the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle.
Wait until at least the first true leaves have appeared (not the first two), and when transplanting, always handle the seedlings by its true leaves and never by the stem.
How to Grow Parsley in the Kitchen
Grow your parsley seeds as described below. Choose the biggest and healthiest looking seedling to plant in a compost filled pot.
Place on sunny windowsill. If living in a hot country, place instead in a bright area to avoid sunburn to the plant.
Place a container under the pot and water well by filling the container when the compost looks dry.
Parsley are thirsty plants, but are also prone to damping off, so take care not to over-water.
Use leaves as required by pinching off enough for use, leaving the plant to regenerate.
If you grow parsley elsewhere, perhaps in the garden or in a greenhouse, you can cut stalks for the kitchen where they will live quite happily in a glass of water, until needed.
How to Grow Parsley from Seed
Grow your seedlings on and when they outgrow their pot you can decide to either move them into bigger pots, or plant outside.
Plant them in drills about 10” apart, in a sunny situation near your kitchen if at all possible.
Parsley is biennial, meaning it flowers in the second year.
it flowers, it goes to seed and then the plant dies.
Save your seed by separating from the parent plant, drying them completely and put them in a watertight container at the bottom of the fridge where they will keep for years.
Never plant more than half a dozen seeds at a time unless you want to have loads of plants.
Parsley can be grown all the year round so you can always have some fresh leaves to hand.
When you need some parsley for the kitchen, just cut off required amount from the growing plant. It will replenish itself and grow more so you can always have some parsley to hand.
Frost does not kill your parsley plants unless it is unusually severe, and what you grow one year should see you through to the following year.
How to Prepare your Parsley for Use in Kitchen
Cut or tear your stems of parsley from the plant.
This stem may contain many sub-branches.
Wash well under running cold water until all traces of garden soil/pests are removed. Defoliate any brown or discoloured leaves and discard.
Then neatly pull all the leaves off from the stalks and place in a colander.
Ideally you want all the stalks taken off, even as much of the little ones as you can. Quite often parsley is served raw as a dressing on top of food, and stalks have an unpleasant feel in the mouth.
Leave to dry off a little in your colander, then use as desired.
Most people chop parsley into tiny pieces using a knife or a vegetable grinder, but occasionally you may want to leave the leaves whole when required as a garnish for better food presentation.
You can buy parsley in the shops either in fresh sprigs or dried and ready chopped, but if you find you are using more and more of it, it might be time to consider growing your own.
None of it need go to waste as it is very easy to chop and dry parsley, or chop and freeze it.
How To Dry Parsley
To chop and dry, prepare as above, then lay the chopped parsley out on a baking tray to dry, separating the grains as much as possible.
Cover with kitchen towel to keep dust/insects at bay and leave in a warm airy place where it should probably dry completely with 2 to 3 days.
Else place the tray in the oven at a low heat setting and with the door open, and your parsley should be dried in an hour or so.
I believe it can also be dried in a microwave oven, but this is not a much I prefer because it would be too easy to start cooking the parsley and you want to avoid that.
I have tried drying parsley in whole bunches, but it didn’t work for me because the parsley biodegraded and dried as dead brown leaves.
I suspect because I tried to dry them in an open covered terrace and somehow the elements caused this, because the one bunch that I hung up inside my kitchen stayed green and dried perfectly.
Once your parsley in completely dried, it can be stored in sealed bottled in the kitchen and used as required.
How to Freeze Parsely
Wash and chop as above, leave in colander for a little longer until it is half dry, then chop and spread out on a baking tray.
Place whole tray in freezer and turn freeze setting to rapid freeze. When frozen, simply bag up or place them in small sealed plastic containers and place in freezer at normal setting.
Separating the chopped leaves ensures it does not freeze in solid clumps that you can’t break off when you come to use it.
Culinary Uses for Parsley
Parsley is an incredibly versatile herb and one I probably use more than any other. It can be used as
· Garnish in soups
· Added to the mixture when preparing stocks
· For making parsley sauce – great served with fish
· Extra flavoring in bolognaise or other Italian sauces
Parsley goes well with all tomato dishes, can be added to many sauces, stews, soups, starters and is a great all round herb with many uses in the kitchen.
Health Benefits of Parsley
Parsley tea, which is made by pouring boiling water over some parsley (all parts of the plant may be used) in a cup and leaving to cool is said to:
· Stimulate the kidneys into expelling excess fluid form the body
· Help dissolve gall-stones
· Reduce flatulence in the gut
· Regulate menstruation
However, do not use this herbal medicinal mixture if you are pregnant as it can apparently causemiscarriage.
There is also a suggestion that overuse can have some horrific side-effects including headaches, confusion, loss of balance, internal bleeding, excessiveweight loss among other things, so like all things in life that are good for you, only take this tea in moderation.
Nutritional Value of Parsley per 100g
Pantothenic Acid (Vit.B5)
What a healthy little herb parsley is!
Containing three times as much vitamin C as oranges and twice as much iron as spinach, Popeye might have been even stronger if he'd stuck to parsley.
Look at the list on the right here to see the host of healthy elements contained within the humble parsley plant.
Parsley is especially high in potassium, zinc, calcium and magnesium as well as vitamins C and K.
Parsley is also high in the essential oils myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene.
Eugenol is used in dentistry to clear diseases of the gums and teeth, so perhaps this is partly why chewing parsley is recommended as an instant mouth wash and breathe freshener.
There is some suggestion that eugenol can reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, but further studies are needed to establish this.
Eating parsley every day as part of your regular diet will go a long way towards fulfilling your daily dietary requirement as an adult.