Parsley serves as more than a pretty garnish – Dickson Post

parsley-serves-as-more-than-a-pretty-garnish-–-dickson-post

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Herb gardens, even when small, can bring joy to our kitchens. There are so many herbs from which to choose, and many are suitable for a beginning herb garden.I rarely have pests or diseases on my herb plants, making it easy to grow them organically. Most herbs prefer soil that is well-drained and “on the lean side.” Many of our herbs are native to the Mediterranean area and love growing on rocky locations.A Greek friend told me about how her mother would insist that she stop the car and gather wild herbs from those hilly areas to share with friends. This type of soil, with less organic matter, will produce plants that are more flavorful, and isn’t that usually the goal for our seasoning herbs.When plants are grown in your garden, whether it’s in-ground or in a pot, you know what that soil contains. You have a lot of control of the food’s nutrient content. If organic food is a goal, money can be saved by growing food plants. Even if you don’t save money, you have the satisfaction of knowing what you are eating.Having fresh seasoning herbs year-round is one of my gardening goals. Several herbs thrive or survive our Middle Tennessee weather and help me meet that goal.Parsley is one of those herbs that we can harvest year-round. For convenience, I grow some parsley in pots near the kitchen door. When the temperatures get really low, a frost blanket, old sheet or cardboard box can protect plants.I usually buy parsley plants each year, but occasionally I will grow them from seeds. Last summer, an Italian parsley plant bolted, produced seeds which scattered around, and produced many seedlings. That’s the beauty of having open-pollinated plants. You can continue to grow the same variety —and for free.Interestingly, parsley gets its botanical name, Petroselinum, from the Greek words for rock and wild parsley. A hardy biennial plant, it will produce flowers and seeds the second and final year of its life. I make sure to replant parsley each year, just as I would annual plants. Like most herbs, the more it’s trimmed, the more it produces. Parsley is more shade tolerant than most herbs.That curly, moss-type parsley that’s used as a garnish on our plate is usually the variety Petroselinum crispum. Cooks insist on the variety Petroselinum neapolitanum — the flat-leaved Italian parsley.Once, I harvested several herbs to give a neighbor who was Italian. As she looked at the basket of greenery, she smiled, and said, “Oh, real parsley.” There really is a difference in the taste of the two, and I prefer the Italian. Parsley is said to have more vitamin C than an orange. It is packed with other vitamins and minerals. It’s so much more than a garnish — either variety.Another Parsley story from long ago: a friend and mentor was distraught that caterpillars had destroyed her parsley and dill plants. Unfortunately, she said she had sprayed them with a pesticide. I’ll never forget the look of shock on her face as I explained, “Marge, those lovely caterpillars were going to be Black Swallowtail Butterflies.”An “ah ha” moment — to be able to give advice to one’s mentor. The moral here: always plant lots of parsley, dill, fennel, rue, and/or Golden Alexander so those caterpillars will have plenty of food and so will you.Happy gardening.Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice.  Readers may submit gardening questions by email: [email protected], on the website:  www.gardening.partners, or by mail:  PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056

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