MASTER GARDENERS: Parsley named 2021 herb of the year
Since 1995 the IHA, International Herb Association -- a professional trade association, has highlighted an “Herb of the Year."
Since 1995 the IHA, International Herb Association -- a professional trade association, has highlighted an “Herb of the Year." Throughout the year that particular herb is promoted to help educate the public of its many virtues in culinary, medicinal and ornamental uses. The first herb selected was fennel in 1995. The 2021 “Herb of the Year” is parsley.
Parsley is grown all over the world for food as an herb and a vegetable. Its native habitat is in Mediterranean areas in such countries as Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Sardinia, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Israel and more. It is frequently used in the native dishes of these countries.
Parsley, or Petroselinum, is in the carrot family, Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. In the tropics, it's an annual, but in the temperate zone, it is a biennial, which means it takes two years for the plant to complete its life cycle.
Parsley is categorized into three types: curled group, plain leaf group and root group.
The curled group is the curly-leaf parsley, Petroselinum crispum var. crispum. This is what you usually see as a garnish on your plate at a restaurant. It holds its shape well and stays bright green. Fresh parsley can be eaten after dining as a breath freshener.
The plain leaf group is the flat-leaf parsley or Italian parsley, Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum. Nutritionally, leaf parsley is a good source of Vitamins A for eye health, C for the immune system and K for bone and heart health. Cooking with parsley is easy since it is a mild herb and not overpowering in a dish. The Italian flat-leaf parsley is far superior in flavor to the familiar curly-leaf.
The root group is the Hamburg parsley or root parsley, Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum Hamburg or Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum Hamburg Arat, which is grown for both its edible leaves and thick parsnip-like root. The root parsley is thought to have been cultivated in Sardinia and later brought to England in the mid-1500s.
Aside from people using parsley as a food source, the herb is also a host plant for butterflies, especially Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. Their caterpillars sometimes referred to as “parsley worms,” can devour parsley in no time. Once the mature caterpillars enter into the chrysalis stage, they stay put for about two weeks before emerging as gorgeous butterflies. Be sure to plant extra parsley to share with the “parsley worms."
Parsley is an easy herb to grow. It thrives in full or half-day sun, preferably afternoon sun, and well-drained soil. A side dressing of compost is generally sufficient as a fertilizer. An occasional douse of liquid fertilizer won’t hurt.
You can buy parsley seedlings, which is what I do, or grow them from seeds. Growing parsley from seeds is easy once you know that the seeds have an inhibitor on their seed coat to prevent quick germination. Be sure to soak the seeds for 48 hours before planting or the seeds may not germinate. I grow my parsley, both curly and flat-leaf in pots on my porch. Both are good fillers for flower combinations in pots. I like the convenience of going out to the porch when I want parsley for my cooking.
Both flat-leaf and curly-leaf are categories in the herbs for judging at the Beltrami County Fair. Be sure your specimens are free of bug damage, stems are intact and the bunch looks healthy.
Much of the information in this column was gathered from an article by Shirley Mah Kooyman.
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