|Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley|
What is a Biennial Herb or Plant
Both curly leaf and flat leaf parsley are hardy biennial herbs. This may be a new term for you – biennial. In the garden, we usually deal with herbs that either return from year to year (perennial) or are only with us for a season (annual). There is a group of plants that require more than one season to flourish and set seed.
Plants that need two years to complete their life cycle are said to be biennial. Soon after setting seed the second spring, the plant begins to fail and soon dies. The second season flurry of seed making doesn't result in much leaf production.
For the gardener, the big difference between this and annual herbs is that a biennial will overwinter like a perennial, but will not produce much useful foliage the year following its original planting. This requires a relay strategy in dealing with parsley – a set of new plants every year for fresh sprigs, and a seed-harvesting program for second-season plants.
To get at least some leaves from second year plants, try pinching back flowers as soon as they appear. This will give you a little parsley leaf growth to tide you over until the younger plants start to take off.
Parsley puts its roots down deep. Be careful to prepare a nice deep bed for it, ten inches or so, and dress it with rich soil. Choose a location that gets at least six hours of sun but holds moisture well. When parsley goes dry, it wilts and seldom recovers, so keep it mulched.
Curly Leaf Parsley vs. Flat Leaf Parsley
Curled or curly leafed parsley varieties are considered less flavorful and more decorative than their Italian relative. They both have a place in the kitchen, one as a garnish, and the other as a flavoring for soups, stews, salads, sauces, egg and potato dishes, stuffing, and vegetable medleys. Grow both in the same manner. I haven't had a problem with varieties cross-pollinating. If you have, please let me know.
Parsley is propagated from seed, which can be a challenge. Parsley seeds are small and the shell casings are hard. They are notoriously difficult to germinate.
This is what's worked for me: Soak parsley seeds for about an hour in an ounce of warm water to which you have added a couple of drops of dish washing liquid. Strain, rinse, and remove seeds to a dish of clear, warm water. I would even say hot water, but I don't want anyone to boil his or her seeds by accident. If you bake, use water that’s about the same temperature as you would use to cultivate yeast. My guess, as I've never tested the water before using it, is about 105 Degrees Fahrenheit or so.
Start the seeds indoors a few weeks before the last frost in your area as they take some time to get going. Parsley seeds like warm soil, so give their pot a warm spot (not hot) if you want to speed up the process a little.
Growing Parsley Indoors
Parsley is a good choice for a potted indoor herb garden. Give it bright morning light, and keep it back from cold windows in freezing weather. It has a long taproot, so make sure to give it a deep pot. Because it doesn't tolerate irregular watering very well, consider employing a wicking system to give it an even supply of water.
Sprigs can be harvested after the plant starts to look bushy. Harvest the outer sprigs first. In the second year, harvest seeds as they appear or leave them in the garden to self-seed.
This post is getting long, so I am rolling information about the uses of parsley to the next one. You can view it by click this link: Uses for Parsley