Through history, parsley has had powerful symbolic connotations, death and fertility among them. What a come down to wind up in the 20th century as the world’s most boring garnish. I do remember that among my girlhood classmates, eating parsley was believed to increase the size of the breasts, and nary was a plate sent back to the kitchen at lunch hour with parsley still on it. And health conscious folk always extol parsley as a source of vitamins A and C as well as iron. Some of its aura has also returned with the recent resurgence of Italian broad leaved parsley. Which is actually cut up and used in food instead of merely sitting next to it? But gone are the days when you could just wave parsley in front of an advancing army and cause the soldiers to retreat in terror if you believe Plutarch. I would not be without it, nonetheless. A hardy biennial, parsley self-sows dependably in my garden, and new plants await me in early spring. In warm climates you can harvest it all year. I grow both the foot high curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and the slightly taller Italian (P. neapolitanum). Parsley is an important butterfly plant. Watch for some particularly gorgeous caterpillars on it, green and black striped with yellow spots. In return for a small share of your parsley crop they will turn into black swallowtail butterflies that will hover around the flowers of your other herbs, especially the pink and purple ones.
How to Grow Parsley
Parsley likes full sun or light shade. Soil should be rich, well lightened with organic matter and moist but well drained. Sow early in the spring or in fall, soaking the seeds overnight to speed up germination, which can take up to three weeks. Or buy started plants for an earlier harvest Thin to about six to eight inches apart. The plants grow beautifully if cut back, even to the base. If you are just snipping, take the outer leaves. Plants can be dug up in fall and brought indoors at the same time so that you will have some fresh plants by the time the old ones start to go to seed. The leaves are good fresh, frozen or dried. Well, dry hanging upside down or on screens in a shaded, well ventilated place.