Tips on Growing a Parsley Plant
There is much more than meets the eye to those green sprigs decorating your dinner plate; the parsley plant offers healthy benefits as well as delicious accents when included in your food rather than next to it.
Two types of parsley are available, curly leaf or flat leaf. Either type is equally as nutritious although the Italian flat leaf parsley is the most commonly used because of the flavor it imparts. Slightly salty and peppery, parsley is considered to have a rather bland taste. It is important when cooking with parsley to remember to add it within the last few minutes of the cooking process, as the herb loses flavor quickly. Parsley is considered to be one of the top 7 healthiest herbs on earth, with numerous minerals and vitamins as well as fiber and protein packed in those wispy green sprigs.
While parsley is widely available in grocery stores across the country, it is mostly found in dried form. Using the herb in its dried form is perfectly acceptable; however, it provides the most benefit and flavor in its freshest state. Fresh parsley can be found on grocer’s shelves, but may have been treated with harsh chemicals and pesticides. Growing parsley at home will be a healthier alternative, and can provide a bountiful supply of this herb for your culinary efforts. While there are a few tricks, the parsley plant is easily grown either in herb gardens or indoors when just a few planting tips are followed.
The plant can either be purchased in nurseries as seedling plants or propagated from seed. The seeds are tiny and have hard shell casings protecting them. The best method to encourage germination is to soak the fine seeds in warm water to which a drop of dish washing liquid has been added. After leaving them in the soapy solution for at least one hour, carefully strain the seeds and rinse well. Place the rinsed seeds in a clean dish and cover with hot, but not boiling, water; allow them to soak for another hour before carefully straining again. Place seeds on a few stacked sheets of paper toweling. The seeds are now ready to be sown in warm soil.
The parsley plant sets deep roots, so when planting the seeds for indoor growth, be sure to provide a deep pot. Scatter the seeds on the surface of a rich potting soil and cover with a scant dusting of soil.
Parsley is a plant that is biennial, meaning that it needs more than one growing season to flourish. It cannot be harvested until it has had an entire growing season, and then will have little leaf production in off years. To counteract this, gardeners can plant successive crops in order to have producing plants every year.
To harvest your fresh herb, snip off outer sprigs first when the plant begins to appear bushy. If not using the sprigs immediately, place them in a glass of water, cut side down, and cover the tops with a plastic bag. The herbs will remain fresh in your refrigerator for up to two weeks when stored in this manner. To store the herbs even longer, chop the parsley and place in ice cube trays; cover with water and freeze into cubes that can be added to soups and stews.
The healthy benefits of the parsley plant cannot be ignored. Higher in Vitamin C by weight than an orange, an excellent source of Vitamins A and K, Omega 6 fatty acids, yet low in calories at a mere 26 calories per cup. Many minerals vital to daily health, such as magnesium, calcium and potassium are provided in that same small serving of the herb.
Instead of allowing the green sprigs to linger on your dinner plate, include it as part of your meal. Your palate, and your health, will thank you.