The Urban Gardener: Growing Herbs For The Kitchen + Heart
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Forget every stereotype you’ve learned from commercial seasonings and mundane concepts of green. Freshly harvested parsley has vigor, energy and uplifts every simple food to something more, something greater, truly more than the sum of its parts. Not only does this hearty biennial fortify food in the most diplomatic manner but it also is a very pleasing addition to any perennial border and fits nicely among other plants. This is how I manage my parsley patch.
The joys of parsley
I am constantly adding to mulch. Parsley favors deeply tilled well drained soils of moderate to very good fertility. Give parsley lots of brightness, either direct sunshine or at least six hours of sunshine works best. Parsley will grow from seed if the gardener has the patience of Job. I don’t and budget a few bucks to purchase flats of four or six plants from local growers each spring. Parsley is such a trooper in the garden that I never quite let it go, I plant every spring despite it’s legendary fortitude during cold weather and a transformative regrowth in the Spring. Dig out a nice space for each plug, dust the planting hole with my panacea for all garden plants , bone meal, and gently firm into the soil. Go ahead and mulch right up to within an inch or so of the crown.
As we’re planting plugs it’s always fun to make a circle or edging along cobblestones or as a clump. Why regulate oneself to any regimen when it’s so much fun to give plants a chance to grow, thrive and evolve in thrifty ways? Parsley will do this for you in its humble way. In this spirit I plant parsley in different locations along the garden path, close entrances and far away as surprises. Like strawberries which share this herb’s height, parsley is six to eight inches high and always has an upright greeting for the world. I harvest the bright green leaves with a quick pinch or snip to the stem close to the growing crown from the outside in. Novice gardeners soon get the trick of picking the largest, outermost stems first. New growth is always spring out from the center crown. You’ll like this for the many applications of parsley in the kitchen.
Second season parsley sends a powerful tap root deep into the soil. Driving through layers of soil, the tap root is a valuable addition to the garden soil structure. In my sandy loam, the white fleshed root easily dives through compost enriched sandy loam and right down to the very sandy gravel beneath. Each parsley root introduces microbes, earthworms and water to soils that may have endured hundreds of years beyond deep roots. A well balanced soil becomes ever more fertile. The deep roots bring to the surface nutrients lost for years and when left behind by the conscientious gardener becomes a nucleus of organic matter that hosts important micro-organisms. The root cavity allows water to perculate gently from the surface to keep the entire garden moist. From the tough root a tall stalk will grow.
Parsley is not known for its bloom. Much like Queen Anne’s Lace however, the simple cluster of white flowers on its tall tough stem has an appeal. Even the most casual passerby notices the brisk parsley scent. It’s possible to harvest hundreds of seeds from these blooms and I tend to bend them down and tuck under the mulch for hopeful sprouts. Optimism is a trait common among gardeners and one does pay homage to hope.
Don’t restrict yourself to growing the flat leave Italian varieties. I also grow the curly leaved varieties for their astounding tribute to the color green. Nothing compares to the lush statements of curly leaf parsley. Join the debate comparing flavors. Treat yourself to nearly year round harvests of a basic culinary herb essential to the well rounded garden. Many times I’ve ventured into the snowy garden and brushed back snow and hay mulch to snip frozen parsley and enhance savory dishes.
No one needs to give parsley a lot of space. Yet, give some, one must. Reserve a spot in your garden patch and you’ll have countless rewards. Compete with your friends for the latest version of pesto. Improve the humble potato and rescue it from relentless white and dress it up with party versions of lovely green. The aura of parsley is a positive one and no one sensitive to the magic in plants can simply pass this plant by. For many gardeners, a sprig in the mouth as one goes about the garden is a high point in the day. We all deserve those moments and their strength can derive from the very ordinary and simple.
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