Many people think of parsley as just another condiment or a garnish on a plate, but parsley has many benefits beyond garnish. For starters you can and should grow parsley in your gardens. It is a biannual and after the first year establishes will come back again stronger. I have had relatively good success planting and harvesting parsley here in Indiana. Last year’s drought took its toll on many of my plants. What plants survived the horde (aka the chickens) has done well now that I have protected it from them. There doesn’t seem to be anything that they won’t eat.
Something I didn’t know and again learned recently that there are two crops from parsley. The green tops most commonly used here in the US but also the root. After the first year the parsley plant grows a large tap root to help it survive winters. This tap root is edible and used commonly in and around Europe in soups and stews. The downside is that after harvesting you will no longer be able to harvest the leaves, which means you will just have to plant more. Some for harvesting the tops, and some for harvesting the roots.
Besides using parsley in everyday cooking I like to use it in my cold remedy. This will be a series on the components of that remedy starting with parsley. Parsley has anti microbial and antibacterial properties. I recently learned that it also has shown anti cancer properties. Parsley is loaded with antioxidants and has loads of vitamin C and A. Some studies have suggested that it also can help with arthritis, is healthy for the heart, and the anticancer properties have shown promise in colon and cervical cancers.
Parsley can take a while to grow as the germination time from seed is four to six weeks. I plan on starting my next batch of parsley December-January timeframe. I know, middle of wither here in Indiana right? But this early start allows for a longer growing season. By the time the last frost comes, my plants will be 4-6 inches tall and already on their way to producing for me. This means I can harvest some of the leaves as early as March or April when many people are just starting to think about gardening. It prefers well drained soil and full sun. It can be grown indoors or out, and in the ground or in containers. I currently have my parsley in container gardens, but plan on adding it to one of my herb spirals for next year out at The Farm.
When I have harvested in the past, I would only collect the leaves. Or cut a large bunch, then chop off the leaves and either dehydrate or use fresh. Lately I have been saving the stems and freezing them. These stems are what I use as part of my cold remedy or to flavor stocks. Whenever I have a component if a vegetable or plant I am not eating directly I save for when we make stock. Parsley stems for example, or the tops and bottoms of onions, or the tops and bottoms of celery. While I don’t eat them directly I wouldn’t dare throw them out. I save it until I have enough to make a stock. Read more about stocks and cold remedy on another post.
Parsley can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw parsley is said to cleanse the palette and freshen the breath. There are many juicing and smoothie recipes using fresh parsley. Try making it an addition to meals prepared at home.