Parsley stats/requirements at a glance
|Ease of Raising:||5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave|
|Water:||2/5 – Minimal, twice a week|
|Sun:||1-2/5 – Full sun or partial shade|
|Training:||1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)|
|Fertilise/Feeding:||1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)|
|Time to Harvest:||2/5 – Soon, 1-2 months when sown|
|Frost Hardiness:||1/4 – Very Hardy (can’t take black frost)|
|Uses:||Culinary, Medicinal & Pollinator attractor|
|Most Problematic Nemesis:||Carrot fly, die-back with over-watering|
Parsley is one of the best known herbs and most widely used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, stews and incorporated into sauces, condiments and garnish. Apart from its slow germination time, parley is very easy to grow and you do not have to give up valuable planting space to have it in your garden.
Parsley is native to Europe and the Mediterranean often used by the Greeks and Romans. It arrived in England during the 16th century and slowly made its way across the globe where it has become naturalised in many regions.
Parsley belongs to the Apiaceae family of aromatic herbs. Also known as the Umbelliferae family, due to their inverted umbrella clusters of flowers, which includes coriander, carrots, fennel, dill, lovage, angelica, chervil, celery, parsnips and anise.
Two types of parsley exists, those mainly used for their leaves and another thick rooted variety eaten as a root vegetable much like carrots or parsnip. The leaf varieties include Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum var crispum – Historically Petroselinum sativum) and French/Italian/Flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum var neapolitonum). The tap-root forming variety is known as Hamburg or turnip rooted parsley (Petroselinum crispum var tubersonum).
Growing & Pruning Parsley
Parsley can be purchased from your local nursery as a seedling ready to harvest once home. Else you can raise it from seed by directly sowing it into the garden. Parley, like most Mediterranean herbs, grow naturally in nutrient-poor gravel like soil, therefore you can literally plant it in places where other plants won’t grow. I used to grow mine in pots, but this year I tossed some seeds into the sparse soil cavity between my garden beds and the pavement where all manner of weeds used to grow and drive me insane. The parsley sprang up and overran the whole strip completely smothering any remaining weeds. So as I mentioned you can have parsley in your garden without giving up prime growing places!
Parsley prefers a full-sun position; curly parsley would like to be sheltered from the harsh midday sun whereas flat-leaf parsley are more robust and will thrive in a full day sun position. Parsley is very susceptible to overwatering and a light hand with the watering can will be welcome.
Parsley doesn’t require pruning to keep its shape, but any flowers can be removed to increase the life of the plant as it dies after seed maturation.
Parsley is biennial, meaning it will only last two years in the garden. The first year it will grow lushly with lots of leaves. The second year it will send out flowering spikes and die. You can leave it to go through its natural life cycle, sowing a batch for the first 2 years, after which it should self-seed and always reappear for years to come.
Parsley has more Vitamin C than an orange (190 mg/100 g) and getting in your daily dose should keep flu at bay. It can be used as a hair rinse to kill head lice when the crushed seeds are infused in hot water for 10 minutes and strained.
Parsley should not be used medicinally by pregnant ladies.
Harvesting & Storing
To dry parsley simply cut off copious amounts of leaves, gathered in bundles and strung upside down from their stems. Once completely dry simply remove the leaves and store in a glass jar.
Seed Saving & Propagation
Parsley flowers are a favourite amongst beneficial insects. Large amounts of tiny white or yellow flowers are carried in clusters known as umbels. Once umbels form seeds, they can be covered in a paper bag to prevent loss of seeds. When these are dry, the seeds are rubbed off into a glass jar and can be stored for 3-5 years.
Parsley can be very slow to germinate, so much so that the Romans believed that the seeds had to travel to the devil and back 7 times to ask permission to germinate! Seeds are sown when the soil reaches 20oC (68oF) and usually take 3 weeks to germinate, but has been known to take up to twice as long. It is better to sow the seeds directly into the garden as transplanted seedling often bolt (go to seed).