Some Flat leafed parsley – Click for bigger Image. (picture taken by Genie Blanning)
Parsley is native to Southern Europe, especially in the Mediterranean region. The ancient Greeks associated it with Achromous, the Herald of Death and as such covered their tombs with it. Perhaps because of this association they did not eat, although they did feed their horses with it.
It was not until the Romans came along that Parsley started to be cultivated as a garnish. It is now cultivated all over the world and is still mostly only used as a garnish.
In some countries, such as the UK, the curly leaf variety is the most popular. The reason for the preference may have its roots in the middle ages, as people were often reticent to consume the flat leaf variety because it resembled fools parsley (Aethusa Cynapium), a very poisonous weed.
It has been thought that only pregnant women or witches could grow Parsley and planting on Good Friday was the only way to ensure a good harvest.
There are three types of commonly used Parsley namely, flat leafed also known as French Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum French), normal Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum) and Hamburg Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum var. Tuberosum).
Sow under glass before the first autumn/winter frosts, (late September/Early October in the UK). This is also the time to cut back well established plant and put under cloches/cold frames to ensure a winter supply. Parsley is not a big fan of being up rooted and transferred, in fact, superstition says that bad lick will befall upon your household it you do.(But that is superstition)
You can propagate Parsley in pots on the windowsill. (you can use transparent plastic bags over pots as a cheap propagator.) In a heated propagator the seeds should germinate within 4-6 weeks and if it is a bottom heated propagator 2-3 weeks. It is best to avoid seed trays as this will mean transplanting. When the air and soil temperature have risen in mid spring and the seedlings are big enough, then transplant out side. About 15cm or 6 inches apart should do the job.
To sow outside, if you cannot grow under glass, sow in the early spring to about mid summer. Keep the seeds moist whilst they are germinating, and be patient as Parsley can take up to 8 weeks before germination.
If you want to cheat a bit then you can buy a small Parsley plant from a good garden centre. (ensure that it is a healthy plant.) Then plant it outside.
The ideal temperature for Parsley is between 5 to 26 degrees centigrade. With a soil pH of 4.9 and 8.3 (4.1-31). The plant prefers a rich, moist soil with good drainage. I have grown mine in soil full of clay and it has flourished.
Water well in hot weather.
I also grow Flat leafed parsley in pots in my kitchen window. You just have to make sure it is well watered and cut. I normally give it a bit of seaweed feed every two weeks as well. As long as it gets a good 6 hours of daylight you can grow it this way all year round.
Pests and Disease
For young plants watch out for slugs, I surrounded mine with egg shells this year and that seemed to do the job. You might also want to try a simple beer trap. Other than that parsley is generally pest resistant. There is an unfortunate disease that can effect parsley if you see first brown then white spots destroy all your parsley plant. Htis is a fungus and there is no cure.
Nutrition in Fresh Parsley (per 100 grams)
Water content 87.71g
Calories 36 Kcal
Fat 0.79g (none saturated)
Calcium (Ca) 138mg
Iron (Fe) content 6.2mg
Magnesium (Mg) 50mg
Phosphorus (P) 58mg
Potassium (K) 554mg
Sodium (Na) 56mg
Zinc (Zn) 1.07mg
Copper (Cu) 0.149mg
Manganese (Mn) 0.16mg
Selenium – Trace
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) 133mg
Thiamin (vitamin B-1) 0.086mg
Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) 0.098mg
Niacin (vitamin B-3) 1.313 mg
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B-5) 0.4mg
Vitamin B-6, 0.09mg
Vitamin A 8424 µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.75µg
As most of the flavour and nutrients are lost once parsley is cooked it is recommended that you do not add it until near the end. I enjoy adding it to mash potatoes. Just finely chop it and add it to the boiled spuds before mashing. Of you are not on a diet a bit of cream is an excellent substitute for the splash of milk.
Apparently it can be used to get rid of head lice. Simply infuse the parsley in hot water and allow to cool. Apply to the head after usual shampooing and wrap your head in a towel for 30 mins and allow to dry naturally.
Parsley is known to be a strong diuretic and as such can be used to treat urinary infections. (consult your Doctor First and do not use if pregnant).
It can also be used in poultices as an antiseptic dressing for wounds and insect bites.
By Andy Hamilton