Arbor Gate's Picks of the Month
The Parsleys (Petroselinum crispum – Umbelliferae/Biennial)
Our monthly herb picks for 2019 will feature a variety of familiar culinary herbs. Some, like parsley, are such old friends that we overlook a few of their culinary uses. Others, like rosemary, occur in numerous varieties, some better for the cooking pot than others.
Remember that October 1 is informally called “New Year’s Day for Herbs” — because many, if not most, of the featured herbs this year will take kindly to a cool season transplanting. If you are interested in the herbs listed for July and August, putting off transplanting until October might be a good idea.
Parsley is the perfect choice to start the new year, as it offers cool season garden beauty, easy cultivation, and a impressive set of culinary uses. And there are two equally useful and decorative varieties.
The two primary kinds are curly (French) parsley, which has dense foliage of a dark green color, and the Italian or flat-leaf variety, which is considered to have better flavor. As an edging, curly parsley is definitely most decorative — gorgeous around your winter pansies, for example!
Both parsleys are categorized as biennials, but our Texas summer heat usually causes them to behave like annuals, bolting and dying earlier than perhaps desired. The resulting dainty flowers are great attractors of beneficial insects, so many gardeners leave the blooms rather than dead-heading. Pinching the bloom stalks will help to prolong the plant’s life, as will a bit of shade in the hot months along with a good layer of mulch.
Both kinds require only well-draining garden soil, good watering practices if rain is scarce (unusual during the cool months), a bright location, and occasional fertilizing with a slow-release organic fertilizer such as Arbor Gate Blend.
The blooms of Italian parsley will form seeds and self-sow in the garden, with the possibility of producing new plants when cool days return.
In cooking, parsley is used for much more than a garnish. Rinsed and dried, then chopped very fine, parsley adds inimitable flavor to everything from white sauce to scrambled eggs, baked corn, baked potatoes, anything poultry and innumerable basic sauces. Imperative for making the ever-useful “green butter”!
Be mindful, when using a combination of herbs, that too much parsley can overwhelm more subtle scents and flavors, so be sure to taste as you go.