Used as a garnish or directly in dishes, parsley is a delicate herb with a strong peppery taste, making it a favorite for many chefs. As a biennial, edible white flowers emerge in an umbel during the plant’s second growing season. An attractor of butterflies and other beneficial insects, this herb will not only benefit your palate, it’ll also spruce up your garden! Seeds possess an extremely thick coat, causing the germination process to take some time, so patience is key with these little ones. Flat leaf parsley tends to be favored for its culinary uses while curly is often used as decoration. However, flavor varies greatly by variety, so don’t rule out any types without checking their full credentials first!
The open pollinated Giant of Italy parsley will live up to its name, producing large leaves and a high yield from a bushy 1–1.5′ tall plant. Featuring a strong, lemony flavor, this type is particularly good for cooking, using in sauces, and drying. Plants are also praised for their hardiness, surviving winter temperatures down to freezing and sprouting back for its second year from the deep taproot. It does well in containers and indoors, so Giant of Italy can be planted year round for a continuous harvest.
SEED: If starting seeds indoors, use biodegradable pots because parsley doesn’t like to be transplanted. Seed germination is also slow, and seeds older than the last growing season may not germinate well. For best results, stratify seeds at 30–35°F for a few days and then soak in water for 6–8 hours before planting.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 12–18″
Space Between Rows: 12–18″
Germination Soil Temperature: Minimum 50°F, optimal 70–80°F.
Days for Germination: 14–28
Sow Indoors: 6 to 8 weeks before average last frost.
Sow Outdoors: Start seeds in late fall for sprouts the following spring. Or plant 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost or as soon as the soil can be worked.
Grows best in moderate climates. Prefers cooler weather to heat and will likely become stunted or die if exposed to temperatures over 80°F for prolonged periods of time.
Natural: Full sun. Provide light shade when growing in hot weather.
Artificial: A great candidate for indoor growing, parsley can be started under fluorescent lights or even on a sunny window sill.
Soil: Prefers a rich, loamy soil. A pH of between 5.2 and 6.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: A great candidate for indoor growing, parsley will grow well in mineral wool or most soilless mixes containing perlite, coco coir, and/or vermiculite.
Hydroponics: Can be easily grown in a hydroponic system. Use a medium such as sand or clay beads.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in an aeroponic system.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Soil should be kept moist but not saturated except in the earliest growth stages when seeds are germinating.
Nutrients: A heavy feeder, parsley needs nutrient-rich soil, so fertilizer may be needed if your soil isn’t the best quality. A balanced nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium fertilizer will generally do the trick and should be applied prior to planting and after your first cutting if harvesting more than once in a season.
Pruning: Cut plant back with scissors or by hand throughout the growing season to encourage new shoots and broader leaves.
Mulching: Use mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth.
Rotation: A 2- to 3-year rotation away from all plants in the Apiaceae family is recommended.
Companions: Grows well with asparagus, carrots, chives, onions, tomatoes, and basil. Avoid mint.
Harvest: May be harvested at any point by either picking off outer sprigs or cutting the entire plant.
Storage: Place in a plastic bag with paper towel and keep in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks. Dried parsley will keep for up to a year but will gradually lose flavor.
Fun Fact: Talk about popularity! Parsley is the most commonly grown herb in Europe. In the United States, it’s the most used herb.
Preserve: Freezing or drying are the most common ways to preserve this herb. To freeze, add the chopped herb to water or oil and freeze in cubes until needed. Drying can be done either in a dehydrator or simply by hanging upside down. Do note that when dried, parsley loses much of its flavor.
Prepare: Use as a garnish or for flavoring in any dish including pasta, stews, and soups. Parsley is a flavorful addition to any meal whether fresh or cooked.
Nutritional: Rich in vitamin(s) A, C, E, and K as well as minerals, especially iron. The herb is also known for its high content of antioxidants.
Medicinal: This plant has historically been used to treat all kinds of maladies but has more recently been credited with lowering blood sugar levels, acting as a diuretic to support kidney function, and as an antiseptic.
Whip up a batch of this savory Creamy Cashew Parsley Sauce to top your salads, pasta, or roasted veggies.