Tag Archives: parsley

An Entertaining Lecture on Herbs at Merrifield Garden Center

Yesterday I attended Merrifield Garden Center’s free lecture on herbs and was pleasantly surprised by the great speaker and the event itself: part entertainment and part educational. Merrifield is known for its free seminars in the spring, which I have promoted on my website for years. The herb lecture was at the Fair Oaks location, which has a spacious room on the second level of the garden center. I arrived early and was surprised to find pastries, brownies, fruit, cheese, crackers, and coffee! Sarah, a Merrifield employee, created this lovely feast and topped it off with an eye-catching display of herbs. Apparently she is known for making such creative displays and generous offerings of refreshments. Sarah was a hoot!  She talked to everyone and encouraged people to submit their drawing on time!

I discovered that at each seat there was a handout on herbs, a 15% discount coupon to use that day or the following day, and a form to complete for the drawing. I did not know there would be a coupon and a drawing but I could tell there were plenty of “regulars” who knew the drill. They seemed to know each other and had been there many times. The mood was so friendly and jolly I almost thought they were part of a gardening club. Filling up on pastries, we completed our forms and dropped them in a large glass container.

At 10:00 am, right before the lecture, Peg Bier, also a long time Merrifield employee, drew slips of paper several times. I did not keep count but was surprised that there were several drawings, not just one. Winners could have their choice of circus tickets or a Merrifield gift card. I did not win but I did use my coupon to buy something after the event.

Peg then introduced our speaker, Nicole Schermerhorn, co-owner of A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields Herb Farm (wearing dark brown in the photo). A Thyme to Plant is a wholesale operation near Richmond, growing and selling USDA-certified herbs and vegetables. Her nephew manages Lavender Fields Herb Farm, the retail garden center that focuses on herb classes and demonstrations. Nicole was very entertaining and down to earth – I could have listened to her for more than an hour. She sprinkled her slide presentation with funny learning experiences and witty conversations with her husband. Nicole provided a lot of detail on cultural requirements, including growing herbs in raised beds, while her handout had information on specific herbs. She was very nice about answering everyone’s questions and offered to stay afterward. A few of the interesting tips I learned were: there are 200 varieties of rosemary but only a few are hardy in Virginia (Arp, Salem, and Hill Hardy); Vietnamese coriander is a heat-loving substitute for the cool-loving cilantro; and parsley is the most nutrient-packed herb one can grow (does not matter if curly or flat leaf). I liked the fact that there was a handout to take home about specific herbs and recommended varieties plus cultural requirements on the backside. If you are new to gardening or new to Virginia, I recommend attending Merrifield Garden Center’s free seminars, especially Nicole’s talk on herbs.

Growing Your Own Thanksgiving Herbs

As I prepare for Thanksgiving this year, I can’t help but think of the beautiful Simon and Garfunkel song “Scarborough Fair.” I grow parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in my Northern Virginia garden and today, the day before Thanksgiving, I can walk outside and harvest these herbs for my holiday meal. These are very easy to grow here and blend well into the typical suburban landscape. All of these with the exception of parsley are perennial shrubs that will remain in the garden year round.

Parsley

I use the curly parsley as a garnish and the flat leaf type in the Thanksgiving stuffing. Placing a heaping mound of cooked potatoes on a platter of green curly parsley makes the dish colorful. Fresh flat leaf parsley adds flavor to stuffing as well as to turkey leftover dishes such as turkey soup.parsley

In Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground all winter long (I took this photo in January 2016). I always use parsley fresh; it does not dry well. Parsley is a biennial plant that will grow the first year from seed and bloom and set seed the following year. To create the illusion of having parsley in the garden every year all you have to do is scatter seeds every year. I started growing parsley years ago and now I have a string of plants just beneath the deck, in a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. To harvest the leaves, cut outer, older leaves at the base with scissors (don’t pull), leaving the core or inner, younger leaves.

Sage

For Thanksgiving, sage can be used fresh or dried. I use it dry in the stuffing and biscuits, but I also use the fresh leaves as a garnish. Placing a ring of green sage leaves on a plate topped with cut up citrus fruit is a wonderful dessert after such a heavy meal.

variegated sage in September, changing from light green to gray

Sage is actually a small drought resistant shrub that remains above ground all year long in my garden. In the summer, it blooms small, purple flowers that attract beneficial pollinators. I use both the leaves as well as the flower spikes for flower arrangements. Leaves can be solid green, variegated with cream or yellow, gray, gray/green, blue/gray, purple, or tricolor (pink, green, and white leaves). No matter what the color, all the leaves are edible. You can pick leaves when you need them without altering the shape or you can take a branch from the back and strip and dry the leaves for the kitchen, including making tea. Sage plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil on the dryer side.

Rosemary

rosemaryI use dried rosemary in the stuffing and biscuits but I cut fresh branches for the turkey platter. I either put slices of turkey directly on the branches or place the branches on the side as a decoration.

Rosemary grows well in my garden because my plants are in full sun in a well-drained, terraced site. They want to grow into large shrubs but since I cut the branches throughout the season for drying, cut flower arrangements, or for garnish, I am able to keep them small. The woody shrubs remain above ground in the winter and tends to bloom when you would least expect it. My shrubs have been covered in small purple/blue flowers in December but just a few blossoms during the rest of the year.  There are many different types of rosemary; some more cold tolerant than others; some prostrate and some are upright. If you have had trouble growing rosemary in the past, Debaggio’s Herb Farm & Nursery in Chantilly, VA, suggests the following as cold-tolerant: ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’, ‘Salem’, ‘Nancy Howard’, and ‘Dutch Mill’. Once established, rosemary is drought resistant and deer resistant.

Thyme

I use dried thyme in the stuffing, biscuits, potato dishes, and green beans. Thyme can be used fresh or dried but if dried, the leaves have a more potent flavor. Drying herbs concentrates the oils, thus a stronger flavor.thyme

Thyme can be grown as a groundcover, small shrub, edging, or topiary or used in a rock garden. Thyme is a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, full sun, woody shrub that prefers well-drained soil. In my garden, my English thyme serves as a groundcover to prevent erosion on a slope and it has spread to cover the soil, thus preventing any weeds. It remains above ground in the winter and blooms in the spring/summer, attracting bees.

Growing herbs is very easy. To be able to harvest fresh herbs for next Thanksgiving, consider buying these plants in the spring at your local nursery.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Remember me to the one who lives there,

For once she was a true love of mine.

You Can Grow That: Chervil

chervilChervil is ephemeral grace. Its finely cut, green leaves emerge during cool spring months, dissipating quickly with summer’s heat. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a very old European herb, one of the components of fines herbs of French cuisine. It is not as well known here in America but it is easy to grow for culinary use. A cousin of parsley, chervil’s leaves are similar but more finely cut and the overall height is smaller, about one foot tall and wide. If left to flower in the summer, the compound umbels display small white flowers, again, similar to parsley or carrot. Because chervil is a hardy annual, seeds should be sown every few weeks in early spring here in Virginia and then again in late summer for a fall crop. Chervil prefers moist soil and partial or afternoon shade.

Leaves can be harvested fresh and taste like a combination of parsley and anise (licorice). Wash and finely cut the leaves to add to egg dishes, fish, fruit salad, cream cheese, cream sauces, cheese dishes, and butter. Add to vegetables such as carrots, beans, corn, and peas during the last few minutes of cooking. It is best to add chervil at the end of hot dishes such as soups and stews because the lengthy heat will make it taste bitter.  The leaves can be dried as well, simply wash and lay flat on paper towels for a few weeks or hang upside down.

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You Can Grow That: Parsley

parsleyParsley is one of those easy to grow landscape edibles that adds beauty to your garden and flavor to your cooking. Here in Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground all winter long (I took this photo in January 2016).

I always use parsley fresh, not dried, partly because I have several plants in my garden, year round. Since it is a biennial, I sow seeds every spring to ensure that I have plants. Mine are Italian Gigante from Renee’s Garden  which is a type of flat leaf or Italian parsley, best for culinary purposes. There is a curly leaf type but that is best used as a garnish. Parsley can be grown from seed or can be bought as a small plant from the local nurseries in the spring/summer. Sometimes, if a plant begins to flower before I am able to harvest the leaves, I let it flower and set seed so the seed can drop and germinate next year. I started growing parsley years ago and now have a string of plants just beneath the deck, in a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. My plants are in the ground but they also can be grown in containers and window boxes.

To harvest, 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 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 harvest leaves for my bean stews, roasted vegetables, pierogis, pasta, and salads. I have used leaves for garnish for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and on plates of fruit.

Known for vitamin A, C, and K, parsley’s high level of chlorophyll also freshens your breath!

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo to read more posts.

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Saying Hi to Old Friends, a Mid-March Walk Around the Garden

I love to walk around the garden in March to see what is coming back but at the same time, I love to start new plants from seeds indoors. This week, mid March, the bright green foliage of parsley has emerged. A biennial, I harvested leaves from this parsley last year; I tend to use parsley quite a bit for meals. This year, the same plant has come back to flower and set seed. I hope to start a parsley patch that will self sow, creating more than enough for the kitchen.

parsley

parsley

The new growth on the tansy is pretty but the old growth is messy, which I will need to trim when it gets a little warmer. Last year, I used the tansy for flower arrangements. This year, I will see if there are more uses for tansy. I always try new herbs each year and a few weeks ago I started two types of fennel by seed in the house. They germinated so fast I had to pot them up and bring them outside for more light. You can’t really tell the difference now but the leafy fennel is on the left and the bulbing fennel is on the right. I have several more pots, I may have to give some away!

tansy

tansy

shallots

shallots

The slender shallots braved the snow; they were this size this last fall when I transplanted the seedlings to this bed. As the weather warms up the shallots will continue to grow and make little bulbs for cooking. Their cousin, the chesnok red hardneck garlic, was planted last fall to be harvested this summer. Their perennial cousin, the walking onion or Egyptian onion, has been thriving in the garden for years now and feel quite at home among a tulip and a hyacinth.

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right