In the Garden:
Middle South
November, 2003
Regional Report

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Parsley is nutritious enough to be a tonic, and pretty enough to include in flower gardens.

Plenty of Parsley

It's pretty, nutritious, and easy to grow, but there are more reasons to include parsley in your garden. For starters, its terrific tolerance of cold stretches the green season well into winter, and eating parsley may help prevent tumors and random infections. Then there's the parsley promenade that comes in spring, when the tattered plants come alive with beautiful flowers that attract beneficial insects. Parsley's good for you and your garden, too!

My parsley always goes into winter in robust shape, and I help it last by covering the plants with a plastic tunnel when temperatures dip below 30 degrees. Parsley will survive with no protection at all, but after the leaves freeze hard, their eating quality goes downhill. I find that dried parsley has little flavor, but stems that are blanched for a few seconds and then frozen make tasty additions to winter soups and stews. They're loaded with nutrients, too. Parsley is a powerhouse of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as niacin, calcium, and iron.

Challenging Seeds
The most difficult aspect to growing parsley is getting the seeds to germinate. Sowing thickly first thing in spring often works, though rain tends to wash the seeds into odd places, and parsley doesn't like being dug up and moved. A better strategy is to soak fresh seeds in warm water for two days before planting them. In late February -- the best time to start a new crop -- I prime the seeds in a jar on top of my refrigerator. Then I rinse them and plant them in peat pots.

Parsley germinates best at about 60 degrees, so my minimally heated extra bedroom makes a good place to sprout the primed seeds. As soon as the frilly first leaf shows, I pop the seedlings into the garden and cover them with a milk carton cloche. The reward is plenty of parsley from early summer to Thanksgiving, and often beyond.


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