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Petroselinum grows wild from Sardinia to Lebanon. It is cultivated throughout the temperate zones. The Greeks attributed parsley to Hercules and placed it in wreaths given to winning athletes. They also associated it with oblivion and death because it was supposed to have sprung up where the blood of Archemorus was spilled when he was eaten by serpents. It is used in wreaths for graves. It was in the Middle Ages that it made its appearance in herbal medicine and was given credit for curing illnesses of the kidney and liver.

Harvest and Use: Parsley has medicinal, culinary, ornamental and cosmetic uses. I like to have 10 to 12 plants at all times because I use parsley as a seasoning in everything I cook. This incredible plant is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals and is very high in chlorophyll. It is safe in amounts given in recipes, but is toxic in excess especially as an essential oil.

As a culinary it goes with everything except sweets. It is a main ingredient in tabouli. It is delicious with garlic, butter, escargots, salad, grilled meat, and poultry. It adds a nice dimension to potatoes mashed with milk and butter. The Belgians like fondue with deep-fried parsley on the side. The Japanese deep-fry it in tempura batter. It is a prime ingredient in salsa verde. The English make a jelly with it.

Parsley is very nutritious: vitamins A and C, calcium, several B vitamins, iodine, and iron are just a few of its constituents. Knowing the body absorbs vitamins and minerals more readily from food then pills, I cured myself of being borderline anemic by eating a lot of tabouli with parsley. It is good for goiter, obesity, bed-wetting, fluid retention, indigestion, gas, menstrual disorders, worms, and bad breath. It is beneficial to the function of the thyroid, lungs, stomach, bladder, liver, and kidneys. So don't treat it as a garnish. Eat it as one of the most nutritious items on your plate!

Harvest stems throughout the season and use fresh. To keep the plant productive, cut the stems close to the ground, leaving some in the clump. Weed it well throughout the season, and cut the flower stalks. The clump can be harvested in its entirety in the fall. It can be dried in a shady area with good air circulation. Because flat parsley is more strongly flavored than the curly, it dries best. Store the leaves whole, if space allows, in a cool dark place in a tightly lidded jar. It also freezes well. Remove whole leaves from their stems, wash well, shake off excess water, and pop in the freezer in a freezer bag.

Cultivation and Propagation: This biennial is often grown as an annual because it goes to seed in its second year. It likes a pH of 6.0, moderately rich, moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Though most sources give 6 to 9 as hardiness zones, it does very well in my zone 4 garden and even survives the first snowfall. When companion planting, sow with marigolds.

It is easy to grow once it has germinated which can take 3 to 6 weeks. Sow when temperatures are 50F. To speed germination, try rubbing the seed gently between sandpaper or soak in hot water. Keep seedlings well watered until well established.

Pests: Parsley can be bothered by carrot weevils, parsley worms, (larvae of the black swallow-tailed butterfly), nematodes, and crown rot.

Triple Curly Parsley

Petroselinum crispum 'Triple Curly' is an attractive, bright-green, well-branched, compact plant that makes a fine border or edging plant.It has finely cut, tight curled leaves with a strong aroma and flavor. Triple curly is cold and heat tolerant with good resistance to disease. It is lovely as a border with other foliage and flowers in a tussie-mussie garden or bouquet. In the language of flowers, it represents gratitude. A strong infusion is a good cleanser when added to bathwater. The essential oil is used in cosmetics, shampoo, perfumes, soaps, and skin lotions. General cultivation information above.

Italian Parsley

Petroselinum crispum 'Italian' is a flat-leaved plant valued for its strong flavor and used as the parsley of choice for Italian cooking. The leaves are dark green and deeply cut, and the plant grows taller than curly parsley. Italian parsley is not particularly attractive as a border plant, but it makes up for it in flavor. It is the best parsley for drying or freezing, and it is cold and heat tolerant and disease resistant. General cultivation information above.