Parsley is a must-grow edible for any garden that appears in early spring and lasts into the autumn. Parsley is a staple in kitchen gardens and it doubles as a host plant for swallowtail butterflies in ornamental pollinator gardens.
Parsley is a member of the Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae) family. Other common members of the family are carrot, celery, cilantro, and dill. The original design of Umbelliferae recognized the umbel inflorescences but the reclassified Apiaceae connects the essential oil apiol with all family members. Apiol is the highly aromatic “essence” present in Apiaceae foliage.
Parsley is a culinary herb native to Europe and the Mediterranean region grown for its aromatic edible leaves, which are used fresh or dried.
There are three parsley types: curly, flat-leaved and Hamburg parsley. Curly or French leafed has cupped leaves widely used as garnish; flat leafed or Italian parsley has a strong flavor and is most commonly found in the grocers; the uncommon Hamburg parsley has a swollen parsnip-like root.
Parsley is a biennial. The first season produces vegetative growth of bright green, fern-like leaves that grow from a whorled or rosetted central stem forming a rounded clump. Compound leaves are divided and subdivided into curly or flat lobed leaflets that are borne alternately on a petiole, the stalk that attaches the leaf to the actual stem.
Leaves provide table fresh foliage for months when harvested young, continuing until freezes damage the leaves. Parsley plants are pretty as edgings, borders, or container plants.
Second season growth is reproductive. Plants exposed to sustained temperatures below 40°F produce 2- to 3-foot seed stalks that bear many small greenish-yellow florets that form several terminal umbels. Leaves are edible after flowering but do lose some flavor.
The entire life cycle of Black and Anise Swallowtail butterflies is supported by parsley. Swallowtail larva can devour an entire plant in no time. It is for this reason that parsley plants in a pollinator garden are allowed to reseed, providing plenty of foliage for hungry larvae. The showy adult butterfly feeds on flowers’ nectar, lays eggs on the foliage and upon hatching, larva feed on the green leaves. Group plants for the prettiest show and to entice adults to the garden.
Aromatic, dark green leaves of parsley are also must-haves in the kitchen garden. Leaves are high in the antioxidants flavonoids and carotenoids; Vitamins A, B complex, C, and K; and minerals potassium, iron, copper, and manganese. The darker the green of the leaves, the higher the levels of chlorophyll, providing increased levels of nitrogen and magnesium to the body.
Often abandoned as the fresh garnish left behind on the plate at restaurants, parsley is beneficial in reducing bad breath because of its high chlorophyll content.
Note: Some information from healthline.com
Ellen Peffley taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org