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!
You get two-for-one when you grow Hamburg Rooted parsley, and who doesn’t love a good deal? This heirloom variety from the 1600s grows both edible flat green leaves and a large beige taproot that can be harvested and eaten as a winter vegetable at the end of the first growing season. Stems grow to around 12″ in height, and leaves are more bitter and tougher than types grown just for greenery. That said, Hamburg Rooted parsley still makes a flavorful addition to cooked dishes. The wedge-shaped root is mild but nutty, reminiscent of celery, and mostly used for soups and stews popular in central and eastern Europe.
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: 1/4–1/2″
Space Between Plants: 8–10″
Space Between Rows: 12–16″
Germination Soil Temperature: Minimum 50°F, optimal 70–80°F.
Days for Germination: 14–35
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. The underground roots can survive frosts, and you can harvest throughout the winter if the soil is kept from freezing with a thick layer of mulch.
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, deeply loosened soil. A pH of between 5.2 and 6.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: A great candidate for indoor growing, root parsley will grow well in most soilless mixes containing perlite, coco coir, and/or vermiculite. Just be sure your container is deep enough for the root to form fully.
Hydroponics: Can be easily grown in a hydroponic system. Use a medium such as sand or clay beads.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Soil should be kept moist but not saturated except in the earliest growth stages when seeds are germinating. If there’s not enough consistent moisture, roots will split and/or fork.
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. Also, cover roots with a thick loose layer of straw during the winter to prevent soil from freezing and allow harvests through the winter.
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: Leaves may be harvested at any point by picking off outer sprigs. Roots can be harvested as needed throughout the late fall, winter, or very early spring (they store well underground if covered by a layer of straw). Root flavor is actually improved if you hold off on harvesting until after the first light frosts.
Storage: Place leaves in a plastic bag with paper towel and keep in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks. You can leave roots in the ground until you’re ready to cook with them for easy storage. Otherwise, keep harvested roots in a plastic bag in the fridge for a week or two. Leave the leafy tops on until just before you are ready to cook. You can also store the roots for longer if buried in a container of sand and kept cold in a shed or basement, although they’ll lose some of their sweetness.
Other Names: You might find this plant referred to as Dutch parsley, Rooted parsley, Turnip-rooted parsley, Heimischer, Rock Selinen, or Rock Parsley.
Preserve: Freezing or drying are the most common ways to preserve the leafy herb of this plant. To freeze, add the chopped leaves 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. The root can be preserved by blanching and freezing or by drying slices in the oven. You can also try preserving it using pickle recipes for other root vegetables.
Prepare: Use leaves as a garnish or for flavoring in any dish including pasta, stews, and soups. Roots are often used as substitutes for carrots or parsnips, mostly in soups and stews. They can be eaten raw, shredded onto a salad, baked, fried, steamed, or boiled and mashed. Look for recipes from central and eastern Europe, where it’s most popular. Take note that there is no need to peel the root, and you might lose some flavor if you do so. Just scrub it well under running water before using.
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.
Make some Parsley Root Fries in the oven for a healthier alternative to potato-based fries.