Parsley is an herb native to Southern Europe that is easy to grow. Like other herbs, it requires well drained soil that receives six hours of full sun. It is actually a biennial plant in our area and, if left all winter, it will flower at the beginning of its second year and set seeds and then die. Rather than cutting it back, most gardeners simply set out new plants each year as it is a fast grower.
There are two types of parsley with distinctive appearances. Most people are familiar with the curly leaf as it is popular in grocery stores and sold as a garnish. Its added bonus is that it can be grown as an 8 inch tall lush dark green border or edging in flower and kitchen garden beds. The preferred culinary parsley herb is the Italian flat leafed variety. It is considered more flavorful and its growth habit is 2-3 feet tall. Both plants can be purchased and planted in either early spring or fall. If using seeds, a warm-water soaking will speed germination as some consider it hard to sprout.
Parsley is also a larval host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly so take care of the black green and yellow striped caterpillar munching on the leaves. Harvest your herbs early in the morning after the dew has dried, taking only what you need for fresh as the leaves wait better on the plant. Regular pruning will increase production.
Parsley is high in Vitamins A, B and C and a rich source of iron. Add to your salads, pasta dishes or make into jellies and soups. It is used as a palate cleanser between meals and as a natural breath freshener.
Many cooks will make green butter, considered a delicacy. Combine two cups of finely snipped parsley with one stick of softened butter and add one Tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Spread on anything that would use butter: bread, corn, potatoes, eggs, and biscuits. Enjoy!
Inez Denson, former Smith County Master Gardner
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service