Growing Parsley

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Some good things come in small quantities . .
. such as the parsley served alongside meat dishes and on
casseroles. Few people realize that the intensely green
sprigs are a storehouse of iron and vitamin C, and can
contain as much as 30,000international units
of vitamin A per ounce
(making them among the richest
known sources of that nutrient).

Parsley, of course, also has quite another culinary value
that’s even more important than its nutritional value
(since few of us ever eat enough of the plant to “cash in”
on its vitamin and mineral content). The dainty
herb–a member of the carrot family cultivated by man
since the time of the Romans–is a real eye-catcher
(especially during the gray days of winter) when used to
garnish an otherwise ordinary dish. Its very appearance on
a plate, in short, can turn the commonplace into the
exotic. And that, in turn, often stimulates the most jaded
appetite, starts the gastric juices flowing, and serves as
a positive aid to digestion. Nor should we forget that the
herb can add a savory spiciness to otherwise bland meals
when powdered or flaked into soups, stews, salads, etc.

Parsley is both hardy and adaptive and can be grown quite
easily in most soils and climates. Six to ten plants
generally will supply enough seasoning and salad,
casserole, and roast garnishes for the average family.

It’s no chore to harvest a whole winter’s supply of dried
parsley in the fall. Just cut small clusters of the rich
green sprigs from the plants, preheat an oven to 400°
F, place the vitamin-packed bits in the oven, turn it off .
. . and leave the clusters of parsley to dry overnight. You
can store this “cooking parsley” in a tight jar the next
morning.

Salad and garnish parsley also can be served “fresh” all
winter from a fall harvest, if you’ll freeze serving-sized
sprigs of the plant in airtight plastic containers (such as
recycled oleo tubs). It’s then a simple matter to remove as
many pieces as you want just before mealtime.

Then again, if you prefer real fresh parsley for
your winter garnishes, you can always pot a few of your
plants before the first nippy weather and bring them
inside. They should thrive enough to allow you to pick off
as many clusters of the herb’s foliage as you like
throughout the winter. And when spring thaws the garden
patch once again, you should be able to transplant the
parsley plants back outside none the worse for wear. (Just
pick off any flower stems that appear in order to keep the
plants from going to seed.)