Parsley, or Pietruszka as it is called in Poland, is one of the most popular of all herbs! It is very beautiful, easy to grow and so very delicious. Parsley is one of the best sources of Vitamin C, as well as a very efficient breath freshener. A favorite with Poles, this herb is used in soups, stews, gravies, salads, meats, and especially potatoes. I remember my grandmother and mother using lots of parsley, and grew up loving it.
However, I think my whole family developed a real taste for it on boiled and buttered potatoes after visits to Poland. The most delicious potatoes, yellow with butter and green with parsley and other herbs was served often.
On several occasions, Polish visitors eating at our table here in Frankliville would ask for additional pietruszka on chicken soup. A really hearty soup is made with chicken breasts, onions, carrots, celery, parsley and parsley root (if you can get it), and a cup of barley. Season with a little salt and pepper and lots of additional parsley. It is warm and healthy (low in fat) and great during the blustery days of early spring.
A historic plant, parsley was used in many ways by the ancient Greeks as being part of their funeral tradition, as well as in wreaths to crown winners of games. The Romans also used parley, especially as a popular garnish for foods. Legends tell us that they believed that if it was eaten between courses, the wine they drank would not make them drunk. During the Middle Ages this beautiful herb was used in monasteries for an edging in the herb garden and was also used medicinally.
A favorite with most cooks, parsley will grow in the garden for over nine months of the year. It will also do well on a very sunny, cool window sill, or even in a cold frame or greenhouse. I love to cook many dishes, but especially potato and chicken recipes with parsley. Besides growing lots of it in the garden, I have it on window sills, as well as in the greenhouse and in the plant room.
In order to have lots of parsley all the time, it pays to sow seeds in the fall, in early spring and again several times during the spring and summer. Besides doing this I also edge the herb garden in places and fill large pots with the seedlings available in small pots each spring. These transplant well and grow quickly.
Legend says that since parsley must go to the devil and back nine times it is best to plant it on Good Friday. Others say plant it on St. Patrick's Day. Both dates are in early spring, a time when the seed is given a cool time in which to germinate. Given food, soil, moderate food, water when it is dried out and a lot of sun, the plant is very easy to grow and will even thrive! This delicious plant not only looks very lush and beautiful in the garden and on foods, but it is also good for you. We love it on boiled and drained potatoes. Chop lots of parsley, a few chives and even a sprig of dill if you have it and stir these into the potatoes along with some butter. Add lots of freshly chopped parsley to sauted chicken breast or to chicken soup or chicken dumplings. Even be generous with this green herb on tomato dishes, especially spaghetti sauce.
Lorraine Kiefer is the owner of Triple Oaks Nursery and has been a garden writer since 1972. Click here to email her.
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