Parsley

curly-leaf parsley

I chose to post about parsley (petroselinum crispum) next for a couple of reasons: first, it is another of my favorite herbs because it’s so versatile; next, it is another herb that does not need full, all day blazing sun like some of the Mediterranean herbs that will probably be the remainder of my posts; and finally because it’s a “two-fer,” one of my favorite types of plants–not only is it great for cooking (and sweetening your breath) but it will also help you increase your butterfly population because it is a butterfly larval food.

So with all of that, let’s get onto the plant!

Parsley comes in two varieties, generally if you are purchasing plants–flat-leafed parsley and curly leafed parsley. Both are fine for cooking–it’s a matter of which you prefer to work with or which you think might make a better presentation (curly leaf is a nicer garnish).

As a plant, parsley is technically a bienniel, meaning that it will not die in your garden over the winter. However, the second year, it will come back, send up a flower stalk and set seed. The leaves will be tougher and more bitter, so it’s best to just buy (or grow) new plants each spring.

If starting parsley from seed, it can be notoriously slow to germinate. I remember my Dad trying to start it one year and he kept thinking that the seed wasn’t coming up. So he kept throwing more seed down and more seed down–well, before he knew what had happened, he had a parsley forest of seedlings because everything had in fact germinated–it just took 3-4 weeks to do so! Bear that in mind. I usually just buy plants–they’re cheap enough in the little 6-packs.

Swallowtail butterflies are attracted to the plant and will lay their eggs on it–which means that their caterpillars will use the plants for food. In my yard, I find the caterpillars definitely prefer the curly leaf variety–the flat leaf is just too large for them (go figure!)

The nice thing about the curly leafed variety is that it’s quite ornamental as well–rich dark green and deeply curled. I have seen garden borders in larger kitchen gardens made from curly leafed parsley. It’s quite pretty.

If you were to intersperse the parsley with some low-growing alyssum for the beneficial insects, that would really be lovely–but that’s a post for another time!

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