One of the first gardening jobs I set about undertaking when we moved to Somerset was establishing a herb garden. Despite not offering the obvious rewards that veg plants do, herbs are still very satisfying to grow. Even the dullest of meals can be brightened up by tossing a handful of mixed leaves into the pot.
The best place for a herb garden is as close to the back door as you can. Having to leg it down to the very end of your garden to harvest herbs for dinner in the freezing winter rain is no fun at all (I know, I’ve made this mistake before), and what’s more, a herb garden is a really attractive sight from your kitchen window.
My parsley has gone bonkers, and seeing all the leaves going to waste bothered me, so I began hunting the web for a parsley pesto recipe. I found a simple one on the BBC Food website, and set about harvesting. The first thing I noticed is that 30g of fresh parsley leaves is actually a lot of leaves, so this is a great option for using up excess parsley before winter.
Buy or Sow?
I’ve bought all my herbs as plants this year, from local plant sales and shops. It’s more expensive than growing from seeds, but with everything else going on in Spring, it’s nice to just be able to stick the herbs in the ground and not worry about them. Lots of herbs are perennials anyway, so the expense will only occur once, especially if you divide them up or take cuttings each year.
Parsley is unusual however, as it is a biennial. This means you will need to replace the plant after the second season, when it will go to flower. Most growers use parsley as an annual though, and just plant another one each year.
The leaves are normally used as garnish on dishes such as curries or tajines, as well as chopped up and mixed into sauces. Flat leaved parsley is stronger in taste than it’s curly leaved counterpart, but if you’re growing for the first time I wouldn’t necessarily get hung up on that.
If you do want to grow from seed rather than buy a plant, sow in pots or direct between April and July, and then again undercover from August onwards for a winter supply. Parsley can also be grown in a pot indoors on a sunny windowsill. Germination can take well over a month, so don’t panic if nothing happens for a while. If there is no sign of action after 6 weeks, you’re probably safe in saying something went wrong.
Water the plants well during dry periods, and watch out for leaves turning yellow. Pick these off to encourage new growth and stop the plant looking ugly. Snipping off the flowerheads will also extend the cropping time of the plant.
And the Pesto?
By the way, the pesto was a success. The parsley made for a powerful flavour, and the recipe half filled a jam jar, so there is plenty to go round. The end colour was an amazing, lurid green, which to my surprise, intrigued and engaged Lewis and Rory rather than turn them off!
I even managed to fold a couple of spoonfuls into pasta which they happily ate for dinner. Stealth goodness all round!