Parsley adds such a great flavor to so many dishes, from green and potato salads to cooked pasta sauces, stews, sautés, you name it.  But it wasn’t until I started growing it that I really started to use it regularly in my cooking.  I find those big bunches from the supermarket to be a real pain to use.  All the leaves are bunched up together, it’s often dirty, and it decomposes pretty quickly.  I know there are all sorts of techniques for preserving it in the fridge, but with my busy lifestyle I often just have enough time to shove it in the fridge before having to dash off to something else.  A couple of sprigs I’ve just snipped from the veggie patch are just so much more pleasant to use.  Growing parsley has also helped me get into the habit of popping out to the garden just before I’m about to start cooking, or even sometimes when I’m in the middle of cooking.  Because it’s flavor is best when you put it into a dish at the last minute, you can really do this, especially if you have your garden right outside your back door.  Also, parsley is really good for you, a great source of vitamins, and has a lot of other health benefits.  Check out my google search here.

For a little more than the cost of one bunch you can buy a packet of seeds that will give you parsley from Spring all the way to Fall.  I grow my parsley from seeds I’ve started in the basement, because I’ve already got a bit of a seed starting production going.  It does take a while to germinate, but you can start the seeds right in the garden, or buy starts from any nursery.  If you are just starting a kitchen garden, I recommend that you make parsley one of your first herbs.  Buy it from the nursery and plant it right in your veggie garden, as close to your kitchen door as you can manage.  Buy the flat leaf, its flavor is great, and the texture of the curly leaf can be a little off putting in dishes.  I grow Giant of Italy from Johnnie’s Selected Seeds or Gigante D’Italia from Pinetree, the same variety I think, just different languages.  I’ve run into some challenges at the end of the season with the parsley not growing well, but I think that’s because I haven’t quite gotten the hang of fertilizing throughout the season, and as a leafy green it requires a fair amount of nitrogen.  One planting will take you until the hard frost.  Right now I have about 8 plants in my garden, I really can’t get enough of this delicious herb.

If you are also a wildlife gardener, a side benefit of growing parsley is that Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on it.  Last summer I brought in a bunch for cooking and put it in a jar on the counter (where it will last for several days).  There was a little black caterpillar on it, which we left on until it had transformed itself into a big fat green, yellow, and black caterpillar.  Some of my friends think I’m bit odd to let a caterpillar just live out in the open on my countertop, but it was very cool to watch (I used different parsley in my cooking at that point).   Eventually the caterpillar took off in a hunt for a good spot to pupate.  After some searching we were able to find him and put him in a butterfly habitat.  He (or she) eventually hatched and it was an awesome experience for my kids, and the neighbor kids, and quite frankly, for me too!  One word of warning, we tried again with a second one, but came home one day to discover he had fallen into the water and drowned.  Very sad.  Next time I’m going to try to rig some barrier between the leaves and the water.