Notes from Herb Heaven
Parsley is the universal herb that everybody knows! It is used by cooks around the world, but many people often use it only as a garnish, which is a pity as it can be used in many dishes and is highly nutritious. Parsley seed takes rather a long time to germinate, up to 8 weeks, but you can help it along by soaking the seeds in lukewarm water in a flask overnight. Some gardeners pour boiling water over the seeds in the soil before covering up the row. Sow the seeds from the early spring to summer in moderate climates. Parsley likes warm to cool climates, so grow it as a cool season annual in the tropics. After the plants get several true leaves, transplant them 25cm apart.
Grow in a moderately rich, well drained, damp soil in light shade or sun. In the hotter parts of the country, grow where it will get afternoon shade. Cut any flowering stems right down to the base in order to keep the leaves producing as long as possible. Let the plant go to seed in its second year and they will self-sow quite happily. Give parsley a side feeding of a nitrogen-rich liquid fertiliser for more leaf growth. Plant with tomatoes and roses to repel unwelcome insects and diseases.
Parsley makes a beautiful edging plant. Rich in iron and Vitamin C, it is known as a blood cleanser. It is also high in vitamin B and potassium, iron, chlorophyll, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A. It helps build resistance to infections and diseases. A cautionary note to pregnant and lactating women: it may bring on early labour and may also dry up milk flow. It is a warming herb, so if you have an infection or there is inflammation present in your body, leave the parsley out until you have recovered. Parsley will help relieve indigestion after a meal. Drink it as a tea or chew on the garnish left on your plate! A tea made from the leaves can be helpful as a slimming aid as it is a natural diuretic. It will help flush the kidneys and the bladder. It is excellent as a remedy for gout, arthritis and rheumatism as it helps rid the body of toxins. For arthritis it can be mixed with a teaspoon of celery seeds and a small piece of gingerroot in the mixture will help improve the circulation. Do not drink more than a cup of the tea for longer than 5 days and then give it a break for another 3-5 days before resuming
Try juicing parsley with other vegetables for a really nourishing drink. Curly parsley is the one normally used for garnish, while the flat-leaf Italian parsley with its stronger flavour is better used for cooking. Add the sprigs to a bouquet garni ~ most of the parsley flavour is in the stalks.
Parsley sprigs can be used in soups, casseroles and stews, while chopped parsley should only be added at the last minute to sauces, omelettes, salads and vegetable dishes such as potatoes and carrots.
Parsley butter is particularly nice with potatoes. Use one or more teaspoons of chopped parsley per 3 tablespoons of butter. This useful herb freezes well. Store in resealable plastic bags, removing as much air as possible. It will last for 6 months in the freezer. Snip it before it thaws completely as it loses texture.
Low-Calorie Sauce for Chicken or Pasta
¼ cup chopped parsley leaves and stems