Stacking Functions Garden

The humble parsley


Dried and fresh curly parsley, via The New Home EconomicsCurly parsley. “Why would anyone ever grow that?” asked a curmudgeonly master gardener with whom I was paired on a project, several years ago. “Flat leaf, Italian parsley tastes so much better.”

Worried that I was committing a master gardener faux pas with my curly parsley enthusiasm, I dutifully planted flat leaf parsley the following spring. It was good, but was it better? Not necessarily. Here’s why: curly parsley has become a perennial (technically: a self-sowing annual) in a partly-shaded area of my front flower garden. Flat leaf parsley needs more sun, and doesn’t survive the winter here in Minnesota.

Here’s the part of my front-yard garden where curly parsley grows:

Autumn parsley patch, via The New Home Economics

This was after a major picking; still plenty left. We’ll keep picking it fresh until it’s covered with snow, as it is cold tolerant. It always starts slow, and every year I wonder whether I’ll get any, but it’s come back consistently without replanting, every year for at least 5 years. My front yard flower and herb garden supplies me with many little things that end up having a major impact on our cooking: parsley, dill, chives, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds, even cilantro/coriander. And it all comes back year after year with little effort on my part.

Last winter was the first time I tried drying any parsley; initially it didn’t seem worth it since it has less flavor when dried. But Adam fell in love with its subtle flavor—particularly for soups and egg dishes—and ran out by the end of 2012. This year, I’m drying a much bigger supply for him.

Added bonus: curly parsley is one of the favorite foods of the black swallowtail caterpillar. Plant some, and you are virtually guaranteed to attract some swallowtails to your yard. Our kids have raised a handful of them every summer for several years.

Do you grow parsley? Would you ever use dried parsley for anything?

5 thoughts on “The humble parsley

  1. We love parsley – the curly kind. We hardly ever see the flat-leaf variety here. I tried growing it in a planter but it didn’t survive the heat. My thyme is doing very well; really hope it survives the winter. The one basil plant I put it just loved my garden. Do you think there’s any chance it will self seed and come back in the spring? Its blossoms turned into all kinds of seeds (I think; not an expert on this…).

    • You could try curly parsley in a shady spot. OK heat is hard on plants! I see no reason why your thyme won’t survive the winter, since it survives here. Your basil *may* reseed itself if you have a mild enough winter. The plant is native to the tropics, where it grows continuously. Let me know if it comes back for you!

  2. I like growing parsley too, and I completely agree with your thinking here. No or low-effort growing has so much to recommend it. And I do really notice it when I don’t make the effort with garden herbs that can make meals so much tastier! My go-to herbs are chives and basil, but parsley is pretty great.

  3. After decades of drinking my mother’s homemade wine I finally decided one winter to learn how to make my own. I was very excited to make my first batch and I gaze out at my sad February garden for inspiration. And what do I see? Parsley. Bunches of it. The only thing that made it through the winter. I hacked it all down and made up 3 gallons of wine. The results – delicious! Sort of like a Riesling and it remains one of my favorites 🙂

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