Growing Parsley

Parsley is an easy herb to grow if you are a novice gardener and looking to grow something green which you can also eat. Parsley is a herb high in nutrients, notably Vitamin C and Vitamin A. It is especially high in Vitamin K, which is strongly tied to heart health and healthy bones. 

Parsley is often used as a garnish for dishes and with good reason. It is thought to aid poor digestion and to combat garlic breath. Traditionally, parsley is associated with being added to a white sauce to be served with fish. You can also add chopped parsley leaves to soups, stews, stocks, pasta, and chickpea dishes and it is delicious in dressings and stuffings. If you add leaves to a dish just before serving, it gives it a more pungent flavour.

Parsley is quite cold-hardy and will generally survive the colder winter months, even the snow, but the cold weather will reduce its growth so you should limit the amount you harvest from the plant. A good tip is to grow lots of parsley plants to counteract its slow growth over the winter so there is still plenty to harvest.

To help your parsley plants survive a Scottish winter outdoors, you have to avoid waterlogged roots. Make sure your pots have good drainage and lift the pot up on feet or bricks or move to a sheltered spot to protect it. If we have a particularly wet winter, it can be worth moving the plants to a cold frame for protection and to encourage more growth.

Parsley is a biennial plant belonging to the Apiaceae family (the celery, carrot, or parsley family) and can grow up to 30 to 60cm in height. As a biennial, it grows in the first year, blooms the following spring, and then dies. Luckily, though, parsley freely self-seeds, giving you a constant new supply of herbs.

If you are keen to grow from seed, moving into April is a great time to sow parsley directly outside when the soil is warming up and then make a second sowing in late summer to see you through the winter. Parsley needs some shade to stop it from flowering and going over too quickly and if you can give it a rich, moist compost, it will be really happy. Parsley also grows successfully in pots, so it is handy to have around the back door.

To harvest, simply cut leaves from the outside, just cut stems low down where they join the clump and discard any yellowing shoots.

You could also try growing French Flat Leaf Parsley, which has a darker green foliage and is stronger in flavour than the curly type. French Flat Leaf Parsley will grow vigorously throughout summer and can be chopped into grainy salads and couscous or used to garnish BBQ grilled peppers and courgettes. It can also be blended with basil and mint to make a salsa verde as a BBQ accompaniment or blitzed into a parsley pesto as a change from using basil.

Parsley is an easy herb to try but our favourite thing about parsley is that in ancient Rome, the plant was attributed with embuing magical powers: it was believed that by eating the seeds one could become invisible and gain supernatural strength – certainly something to consider!

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