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Parsley Flat and Curly Parsley or Chervil?

“Parsley – the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate.”
– Albert Stockli
Parlsey (Petroselinum crispin)

Parlsey (Petroselinum crispin)

Once used to crown victors at the Greek Isthmian Games and to decorate tombs, parsley is an herb of high esteem, and beloved around the world by many cooks and gardeners.  The Greeks were among the first to treasure this herb that originated in Sardina (Italy).  Although they used it medically (even feeding it to their horses), the rest of the world can thank the Romans for being the first to use it in food.  As popular as it was, it was a big social no-no to place parsley on the table of the elderly, since it was also linked to the subject of death in tomb decoration.

Parley is a member of the Umbelliferae plant family.  This means they are related to both celery and carrots.  There are only eight varieties of parsley for the home herb gardener to choose from, among most favored are four:

  • Hamburg parsley (P.c. Tuberosum) - Lesser known in some countries it is a tuber (more carrot like in appearance and used in soups)
  • Italian Parsley (P.c. Neapolitanum)  - Best for cooking
  • Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispin) -- Best for salads and garnishes
  • Chervil - A French variety of Italian Parsley - Best for cooking, it is more fern-like and fragile and has a flavor compared to licorice combined with peppery taste

Unopened flowers of curly leaf parsley - Derek Ramsey, GNU, Creative Commons Wikimedia Commons

Unopened flowers of curly leaf parsley - Derek Ramsey, GNU, Creative Commons Wikimedia Commons

How to Grow Parsley

Site:  Full sun or light shade

Soil: Deeply dug and aerated soil, with rich topsoil in an area that is well-draining

Propagation:  There is an old time saying that definitely applies to starting parsley plants:

"Parsley seeds must go to the devil and back nine times  before sprouting."

That saying is quite a truism in that germination of parsley seeds is exceedingly slow, usually taking about four to six weeks.  This is due to the natural coating the seed wears and there is a trick to get around this.   Simply soak the seeds overnight in warm water, then pour boiling water in the drill holes in the ground before  sowing the seed.  Alternately, since parsley herbs are often sold as plants in the spring in local garden centers that may be easier, unless you are an organic grower.

Growing:  Thin plants and place about eight inches apart if not pot planted.  Protect in cold weather.

Harvest:  Pick leaves during the first year.  Remember that parsley is a bi-annual plant.  Collect seeds when ripe for next year's crop.  Dig up roots in second year in the fall.

Preserving:  Dry or freeze leaves.  Dry or blanch roots.  The best way to freeze the leaves is to make parsley pesto in frozen ready to use cubes.

Curly leaf parsley, Donovan Govan, GNU, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons

Curly leaf parsley, Donovan Govan, GNU, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons

Parsley and Wildlife

Some wildlife love parsley, some don’t.  Parsley is a wonder addition to a home garden that includes both herbs and a butterfly habitat.  Swallowtail butterflies are known to use parsley for a baby larvae incubator.  Bees like parsley.  Some birds (mostly goldfinches) will feed on parley, however, it is wildly known that for some other birds like parrots it is a last meal.

Other wildlife simply love parsley, so if you have wild rabbits and deer, you might want to plant your parsley close to the house or even indoors.

Parsley As A Medincinal Herb

Like most herbs, parsley has been widely regarded as a healing plant.  Dried leaves of parsley are often used to make Parsley Tea, said to be good for digestion.  Parsley is often used as a poultice as it is antiseptic.  Use on sprains, insect bites, and wounds.  You can chew the leaves to freshen your breath.  Some use for cosmetic purposes by making a puree to apply to skin and use for bathing tired eyes.

Caution:  Pregnant women should not eat excessive amounts of parsley as it has been linked to premature labor.  It has also been used to hasten on menstrual periods by some cultures.