Parsley





(Carum Petroselinum, Linn.), a hardy biennial herb of the

natural order Umbelliferae, native to Mediterranean shores, and

cultivated for at least 2,000 years. The specific name is derived from

the habitat of the plant, which naturally grows among rocks, the Greek

word for which is petros. Many of the ancient writings contain

references to it, and some give directions for its cultivation. The

writings of the old herbalists of the 15th century show that in their

times it had already developed several well-defined forms and numerous

varieties, always a sure sign that a plant is popular. Throughout the

world today it is unquestionably the most widely grown of all garden

herbs, and has the largest number of varieties. In moist, moderately

cool climates, it may be found wild as a weed, but nowhere has it become

a pest.



"Ah! the green parsley, the thriving tufts of dill;

These again shall rise, shall live the coming year."



--Moschus



Description.--Like most biennials, parsley develops only a rosette of

leaves during the first year. These leaves are dark green, long stalked

and divided two or three times into ovate, wedge-shaped segments, and

each division either entire, as in parsnip, or more or less finely cut

or "curled." During the second season the erect, branched, channeled

flower stems rise 2 feet or more high, and at their extremities bear

umbels of little greenish flowers. The fruits or "seeds" are light brown

or gray, convex on one side and flat on the other two, the convex side

marked with fine ribs. They retain their germinating power for three

years. An interesting fact, observed by Palladius in 210 A. D., is that

old seed germinates more freely than freshly gathered seed.



Cultivation.--Parsley is so easily grown that no garden, and indeed no

household, need be without it. After once passing the infant stage no

difficulty need be experienced. It will thrive in any ordinary soil and

will do well in a window box with only a moderate amount of light, and

that not even direct sunshine. Gardeners often grow it beneath benches

in greenhouses, where it gets only small amounts of light. No one need

hesitate to plant it.



The seed is very slow in germinating, often requiring four to six weeks

unless soaked before sowing. A full day's soaking in tepid water is none

too long to wake up the germs. The drills may be made in a cold frame

during March or in the open ground during April.



It is essential that parsley be sown very early in order to germinate at

all. If sown late, it may possibly not get enough moisture to sprout,

and if so it will fail completely. When sown in cold frames or beds for

transplanting, the rows may be only 3 or 4 inches apart, though it is

perhaps better, when such distances are chosen, to sow each alternate

row to forcing radishes, which will have been marketed by the time the

parsley seedlings appear. In the open ground the drills should be 12 to

15 inches apart, and the seed planted somewhat deeper and farther apart

than in the presumably better-prepared seedbed or cold frame. One inch

between seeds is none too little.



In field culture and at the distances mentioned six or seven pounds of

seed will be needed for the acre. For cultivation on a smaller scale an

ounce may be found sufficient for 50 to 100 feet of drill. This quantity

should be enough for any ordinary-sized family. In all open ground

culture the radish is the parsley's best friend, because it not only

marks the rows, and thus helps early cultivation, but the radishes

break, loosen and shade the soil and thus aid the parsley plants.



When the first thinning is done during May, the parsley plants may be

allowed to stand 2 inches asunder. When they begin to crowd at this

distance each second plant may be removed and sold. Four to six little

plants make a bunch. The roots are left on. This thinning will not only

aid the remaining plants, but should bring enough revenue to pay the

cost, perhaps even a little more. The first cutting of leaves from

plants of field-sown seed should be ready by midsummer, but as noted

below it is usually best to practice the method that will hasten

maturity and thus catch the best price. A "bunch" is about the amount

that can be grasped between the thumb and the first finger, 10 to 15

stalks.



It is usual to divide the field into three parts so as to have a

succession of cuttings. About three weeks are required for a new crop of

leaves to grow and mature after the plants have been cut. Larger yields

can be secured by cutting only the fully matured leaves, allowing the

others to remain and develop for later cuttings. Three or four times as

much can be gathered from a given area in this way. All plain leaves of

such plants injure the appearance and reduce the price of the bunches

when offered for sale.



If protected from frost, the plants will yield all winter. They may be

easily transplanted in cold frames. These should be placed in some warm,

sheltered spot and the plants set in them 4 by 6 inches. Mats or

shutters will be needed in only the coldest weather. Half a dozen to a

dozen stalks make the usual bunch and retail for 2 or 3 cents.



In the home garden, parsley may be sown as an edging for flower beds and

borders. For such purpose it is best to sow the seed thickly during late

October or November in double rows close together, say 3 or 4 inches.

Sown at that time, the plants may be expected to appear earlier than if

spring sown and to form a ribbon of verdure which will remain green not

only all the growing season, but well into winter if desired. It is

best, however, to dig them up in the fall and resow for the year

succeeding.



For window culture, all that is needed is a box filled with rich soil.

The roots may be dug in the fall and planted in the box. A sunny window

is best, but any window will do. If space is at a premium, a nail keg

may be made to yield a large amount of leaves. Not only may the tops be

filled with plants, but the sides also. Holes should be bored in the

staves about 4 inches apart. (See illustration, page 2.) A layer of

earth is placed in the bottom as deep as the lowest tier of holes. Then

roots are pushed through these holes and a second layer of earth put in.

The process is repeated till the keg is full. Then plants are set on the

top. As the keg is being filled the earth should be packed very firmly,

both around the plants and in the keg. When full the soil should be

thoroughly soaked and allowed to drain before being taken to the window.

To insure a supply of water for all the plants, a short piece of pipe

should be placed in the center of the keg so as to reach about half way

toward the bottom. This will enable water to reach the plants placed in

the lower tiers of holes. If the leaves look yellow at any time, they

may need water or a little manure water.



As parsley is grown for its leaves, it can scarcely be over fertilized.

Like cabbage, but, of course, upon a smaller scale, it is a gross

feeder. It demands that plenty of nitrogenous food be in the soil. That

is, the soil should be well supplied with humus, preferably derived from

decaying leguminous crops or from stable manure. A favorite commercial

fertilizer for parsley consists of 3 per cent nitrogen, 8 per cent

potash and 9 per cent phosphoric acid applied in the drills at

the rate of 600 to 900 pounds to the acre in two or three

applications--especially the nitrogen, to supply which nitrate of soda

is the most popular material.



A common practice among market gardeners in the neighborhood of New York

has been to sow the seed in their cold frames between rows of lettuce

transplanted during March or early April. The lettuce is cut in May, by

which time the parsley is getting up. When grown by this plan the crop

may be secured four or five weeks earlier than if the seed is sown in

the open ground. The first cutting may be made during June. After this

first cutting has been made the market usually becomes overstocked and

the price falls, so many growers do not cut again until early September

when they cut and destroy the leaves preparatory to securing an autumn

and winter supply.



When the weather becomes cool and when the plants have developed a new

and sturdy rosette of leaves, they are transplanted in shallow trenches

either in cold frames, in cool greenhouses (lettuce and violet houses),

under the benches of greenhouses, or, in fact, any convenient place that

is not likely to prove satisfactory for growing plants that require more

heat and light.



This method, it must be said, is not now as popular near the large

cities as before the development of the great trucking fields in the

Atlantic coast states; but it is a thoroughly practical plan and well

worth practicing in the neighborhood of smaller cities and towns not

adequately supplied with this garnishing and flavoring herb.



A fair return from a cold frame to which the plants have been

transplanted ranges from $3 to $7 during the winter months. Since many

sashes are stored during this season, such a possible return deserves to

be considered. The total annual yield from an acre by this method may

vary from $500 to $800 or even more--gross. By the ordinary field

method from $150 to $300 is the usual range. Instead of throwing away

the leaves cut in September, it should be profitable to dry these leaves

and sell them in tins or jars for flavoring.



When it is desired to supply the demand for American seed, which is

preferred to European, the plants may be managed in any of the ways

already mentioned, either allowed to remain in the field or transplanted

to cold frames, or greenhouses. If left in the field, they should be

partially buried with litter or coarse manure. As the ground will not be

occupied more than a third of the second season, a crop of early beets,

forcing carrots, radishes, lettuce or some other quick-maturing crop may

be sown between the rows of parsley plants. Such crops will mature by

the time the parsley seed is harvested in late May or early June, and

the ground can then be plowed and fitted for some late crop such as

early maturing but late-sown sweet corn, celery, dwarf peas, late beets

or string beans.



When seed is desired, every imperfect or undesirable plant should be

rooted out and destroyed, so that none but the best can fertilize each

other. In early spring the litter must be either removed from the plants

and the ground between the rows given a cultivation to loosen the

surface, or it may be raked between the rows and allowed to remain until

after seed harvest. In this latter case, of course, no other crop can be

grown.



Like celery seed, parsley seed ripens very irregularly, some umbels

being ready to cut from one to three weeks earlier than others. This

quality of the plant may be bred out by keeping the earliest maturing

seed separate from the later maturing and choosing this for producing

subsequent seed crops. By such selection one to three weeks may be saved

in later seasons, a saving of time not to be ignored in gardening

operations.



In ordinary seed production the heads are cut when the bulk of the seed

is brown or at least dark colored. The stalks are cut carefully, to

avoid shattering the seed off. They are laid upon sheets of duck or

canvas and threshed very lightly, at once, to remove only the ripest

seed. Then the stalks are spread thinly on shutters or sheets in the sun

for two days and threshed again. At that time all seed ripe enough to

germinate will fall off. Both lots of seed must be spread thinly on the

sheets in an airy shed or loft and turned daily for 10 days or two weeks

to make sure they are thoroughly dry before being screened in a fanning

mill and stored in sacks hung in a loft.



Varieties.--There are four well-defined groups of parsley varieties;

common or plain, curled or moss-leaved, fern-leaved, and Hamburg. The

last is also known as turnip-rooted or large-rooted. The objections to

plain parsley are that it is not as ornamental as moss-leaved or

fern-leaved sorts, and because it may be mistaken for fools parsley, a

plant reputed to be more or less poisonous.



In the curled varieties the leaves are more or less deeply cut and the

segments reflexed to a greater or less extent, sometimes even to the

extent of showing the lighter green undersides. In this group are

several subvarieties, distinguished by minor differences, such as extent

of reflexing and size of the plants.



In the fern-leaved group the very dark green leaves are not curled but

divided into numerous threadlike segments which give the plant a very

delicate and dainty appearance.



Hamburg, turnip-rooted or large-rooted parsley, is little grown in

America. It is not used as a garnish or an herb, but the root is cooked

as a vegetable like carrots or beets. These roots resemble those of

parsnips. They are often 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Their

cultivation is like that of parsnips. They are cooked and served like

carrots. In flavor, they resemble celeriac or turnip-rooted celery, but

are not so pleasing. In Germany the plant is rather popular, but, except

by our German gardeners, it has been little cultivated in this country.



Uses.--The Germans use both roots and tops for cooking; the former as

a boiled vegetable, the latter as a potherb. In English cookery the

leaves are more extensively used for seasoning fricassees and dressings

for mild meats, such as chicken and veal, than perhaps anything else. In

American cookery parsley is also popular for this purpose, but is most

extensively used as a garnish. In many countries the green leaves are

mixed with salads to add flavor. Often, especially among the Germans,

the minced green leaves are mixed with other vegetables just before

being served. For instance, if a liberal dusting of finely minced

parsley be added to peeled, boiled potatoes, immediately after draining,

this vegetable will seem like a new dish of unusual delicacy. The

potatoes may be either served whole or mashed with a little butter, milk

and pepper.





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