Growing parsley adds both a nutritious, tasty and healthy herb to your garden, as well as a plant that many butterflies need to feed their larvae. For butterfly gardens, herb gardens, and anyone who loves to cook what they grow, growing parsley makes sense.
I have a confession to make: I love growing parsley! Whether I’m growing parsley for my butterfly garden or for my vegetable dishes, parsley always has an important place in my garden.
I used to grow parsley in a special herb garden set aside just for that purpose. Later on, I discovered that in addition to dill, parsley is a favorite food for the Eastern Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Always enjoy cultivated, culinary parsley as both an herb for health and a culinary garnish or seasoning herb. Much folklore surrounds parsley as a poisonous plant because the so-called “fool’s parsley”, which grew wild in ancient Greece and other lands, is poisonous.
Common household parsley such as the kind you can buy and grow from any good nursery or garden center is actually quite healthy for you. Parsley contains very few calories and plenty of vitamins C, A, and iron. It is extremely good for you.
Parsley Plants or Seeds?
Parsley can be grown in zones 3 through 8. The flat-leaf, Italian parsley is more heat tolerant and recommended for zones 7 through 9, with zone 9 gardeners planting it in the fall for winter use.
Curly-leaf parsley, shown here and what I have growing in my garden today, is a more cool tolerant plant. In fact, this one wintered over. I bought it and planted it last spring. Without any special cover for the winter, it survived and thrived here in zone 6B.
To grow parsley, you can start with seeds or plants. Most people want only one or two plants, so purchasing small parsley herbs in containers at the garden center is fine.
Where to Plant Parsley
Parsley is one of the few garden herbs that can tolerate partial shade. You can grow it in full sun or partial shade. Soil pH should be around 5.5. to 6.5. It prefers rich, well-drained soil….but mine is growing in acidic, poor soil, so go figure. Actually, I’ve never known parsley to be fussy about soil. It’s always a good idea to enrich the soil with compost or well-rotted manure before planting.
It’s a good idea to mulch around your parsley to keep the soil cool. It can wilt or turn brown in the heat. The flat leaf, Italian parsley, which I’ll be speaking about at the Evergreen Lavender Farm on May 21, 2016, is more heat-tolerant than the cool weather loving curly leaf kind.
Keep parsley well-watered. Pinch the leaves back and use them frequently in your cooking. You can also snip off leaves and dry them in the sunshine, in a dehydrator or in your oven. I prefer solar or dehydrator drying for parsley, as I find the leaves tend to degrade when I use oven heat, no matter how low I set the heat.
Parsley is a biennial plant. The first year, it grows and establishes itself. In the second year, it creates flowers and may produce seeds. If you see flowers on your parsley plant, the leaves will probably be bitter. It’s a sign that the plant is finished its life cycle. You can leave it in the garden for butterflies to enjoy or pull it and compost it when it flowers. The leaves become too bitter to eat, like lettuce leaves after the plant has bolted (set seeds.)
Parsley Uses: Culinary and Health Benefits
I think everyone is aware of the ubiquitous sprig of parsley used as a garnish at restaurants, especially on steaks. There are many culinary uses of parsley, including:
- Flavor extender: Diced parsley is said to be a “flavor extender” in dishes, helping to bring forth many subtle flavors in a dish.
- Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking: Many dishes include parsley as the key flavor note, paired with lemon, lentils, rice, and meats such as lamb or goat.
- Third wheel herb: If you have a recipe that calls for two very strongly flavored herbs, parsley can be added to balance the two tastes or to link them on the palate.
- Vegetable: I don’t know anyone who would eat a cup of parsley straight, but at only 22 calories for one cup, and providing you with over 100% of your daily RDA for vitamins C and A, parsley is a nutritious winner. You can mix it into larger salads, vegetable dishes, and grain dishes for added vitamins.
Parsley Herb: Herbal and Wellness Uses
As always, please see your doctor before using this or any other herb.
As I mentioned earlier, parsley wasn’t used in ancient Greece or Rome as a curative herb because so many people mixed it up with the wild, poisonous plants. The Romans wore garlands of parsley to their feasts thinking it wards off intoxication. There may be a hint of truth in that. Parsley doesn’t offset intoxication, but it is a diuretic, so it might mitigate some of the effects of intoxication. Maybe. If you eat it rather than wear it.
Web MD lists parsley’s wellness uses as:
- Urinary tract infections (parsley tea)
- Kidney stones (parsley tea)
- High blood pressure
The curious thing about these traditional herbal uses for parsley is that the parsley herb is a diuretic, and diuretics help your body release stored water. Today, doctors prescribe diuretic pills on occasion for patients suffering from high blood pressure. Anemia also makes sense for parsley because parsley contains a good amount of iron. So this is a case where folk medicine meets science for a happy outcome.
If you’re growing parsley this spring, I can’t think of a friendlier, more useful herb for the home garden. Even if you find it’s not to your taste, it’s pretty enough that you can leave it as a border plant to welcome butterflies to the garden. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up starting a tiny butterfly nursery if you’re lucky enough to have Eastern Swallowtail caterpillars munching on it!
Today for Wellness Wednesday, I celebrate growing parsley, an herb with many uses.
#wellnesswednesday #herb growing
Happy gardening! Keep growing!