The robust flavor and smell of fresh cut herbs is something we never forget. Be it cut from our own garden or offered by a friend from their’s. Packaged, store bought can rarely compare in color, aroma or flavor and once you have tried garden grown it is hard to use the store bought afterwards.
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I sometimes hear that cooking from scratch (such as soups and stews) are so bland. Ah but we can flavor them much better than the store bought packaged stuff and with delicious healthy spices and herbs rather than some chemical concoction.
TIP: If you decide to purchase herbs and spices pre packaged .. please look for organic. Otherwise they are generally irradiated. Irradiation kills microbes, pests, and bacteria, but it generally also kills nutrients.
I have been growing most of my own herbs in our garden for many years. They are the easiest part of gardening as they require a lot less care than a lot of the vegetables we grow. One of the nice things is that most herbs grow as well in pots as in the ground and it’s nice to be able to move them around, use them for decoration on the patio or bring indoors
Parsley is one we use a lot. It goes in so many dishes. Sauces, salads, soups, stews and stir fry’s. And in nearly all of our veggie dishes. Fresh leaves are good on a sandwich or in a dip.
TIP: If you like to eat garlic or take garlic pills and you worry about smelling to much like garlic just eat a little parsley with it. For some reason it takes away the strong odor.
Like sage, it takes a long time to germinate seeds and we generally buy a small starter plant or two. But if you want to start from seeds it’s best to do so about 3 or 4 weeks before the last frost. Then you will have it ready to go in the garden or into a pot in the house in a sunny window.
It will do fine in full sun or partial shade with around 5 hours of sun a day. Parsley likes rich, well drained soil that is a little moist. It seems to do fine in the same area as sage but watered more often.
Parsley is a biennial plant with bright green, feather-like leaves and is in the same family as dill. The two basic parsley types are flat leaves and curley leaves. My personal preference is the flat leaf.
It comes back for two to three years but two years is best because it tends to get to leggy with less leaves. It doesn’t need fertilizer in spring but a good organic mulch during the cold winter months will help it thru to the next year. It will grow well in a deep pot, which helps accommodate the long taproot.
Parsley has 574% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. WOW. It also has 62% daily value of vitamin C plus vitamin A and twice as much iron as spinach. It promotes strong bones and better digestion.
Parsley grows pretty fast and we usually get two or three cuttings per season for drying.
By cuttings I mean long stems full of leaves. Generally enough to last all winter and then some. I will cut it right off leaving about 5 or 6 inches. It grows right back and fairly fast. Then I rinse and dry it. I cut it long enough that I can tie a bundle at one end and hang to dry or use a herb drying rack similar to this one in the picture. Or if your just drying a little you can place the leaves on a plate and set aside in a cool, dry place until dry.
I dry outside on the patio most of the time and it takes from a few days to a week or more depending on the weather and how much humidity is in the air. If we are having to much rain then I will dry indoors. A lot of times the house is much dryer than outdoors depending on the weather. You can tell when its done as it will crackle into pieces between your fingers. Once that is done it’s time to store it.
Parsley is best used within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
I wish I could tell you “how much” to use. I do not measure them. I just toss some in. Everyone’s personal taste is different. I like to test taste as I cook if it’s a soup or stew. Still a little bland? Then in goes a bit more sage and/or other herbs. A guideline for using dry vs fresh picked is -1 teaspoon of crumbled dried leaves -to- a tablespoon of fresh herbs.
More herbs in the “Growing Herbs Series”
Linda Carlson – Certified Nutrition & Wellness Counselor (retired) with 25+ years background
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