Parsley is one of those easy to grow culinary herbs that adds beauty to your garden and flavor to your cooking. Here in Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground in mild winters.
Parsley is a biennial, it produces foliage the first year and flowers the second year. I have set aside a small area in the ground I call the parsley patch. There are enough plants so that some are in the first year (when I want to harvest foliage for the kitchen) and some are in the second year (when I want them to flower and develop seed). For extra luck, I also scatter seeds every spring. This way I can harvest fresh parsley year round.
Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. My plants are in the ground but parsley can be grown in containers and window boxes for the summer. I grow flat leaf or Italian parsley, which is best for culinary purposes. There is a curly leaf type that is best used as a garnish.
To harvest parsley, cut outer, older leaves at the base, leaving the core or inner, younger leaves. Cut with scissors (don’t pull) and put in a large bowl of cool water for about 20 minutes (to wash the foliage and drown any bugs). Pat dry and cut the leaves and stems into small pieces with scissors or a knife.
I use parsley for my bean stew, roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes, pasta, and salads. I also use the foliage for garnish for holiday dinners and plates of fruit. I have heard of folks using it in smoothies. In addition to its flavor, parsley has high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, plus a high level of chlorophyll that freshens your breath!
Try growing parsley from seed this year to create your own parsley patch. Here is a list of more than 100 seed companies. Or, you can always find a small plant in the spring in local garden centers and either plant in the ground or in a container.