2021 Herb of the Year: Parsley
Each year, the International Herb Association (IHA) designates an herb to be crowned the ‘Herb of the Year.’ This long-standing tradition dates back to 1995, and the selection process involves herb societies, groups, and experts from all around the world. For 2021, the herb selected by the IHA just so happens to be one of our favorites, parsley.
This versatile herb deserves all the attention. Not only is parsley flavorful and good for you, but it’s also incredibly easy to grow, especially with Tower Garden. Experienced and beginner growers love this herb because it takes up little room, provides bountiful harvests, and has many uses in the kitchen.
Below, we break down some of our favorite health benefits, growing tips, and recipe ideas for this year’s Herb of the Year.
Parsley is one of the world’s most popular herbs, and for good reason. It’s extremely popular in American, European, and Middle Eastern cultures largely due to its flavor, but parsley also packs a punch when it comes to health benefits.
The herb is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help our bodies perform at their highest level. Specifically, parsley is high in vitamin K, which is vital for bone metabolism. In fact, just one tablespoon of fresh parsley contains about 70% of our daily recommended vitamin K intake.
Here are just a few more great health benefits of parsley:
● Improves Eye Health: Parsley is loaded with vitamin A. In addition to supporting our immune system, vitamin A has been proven to play a crucial role in our vision by helping us maintain clear corneas.
● Supports Heart Health: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Fortunately, parsley contains plant compounds, like carotenoid antioxidants, that have been known to reduce the risk of heart attacks and other heart problems.
● Aids Kidney Health: Our kidneys play a vital role in keeping our bodies clean — filtering the blood of toxins, waste, and excess water. Parsley contains anti-inflammatory properties that help our kidneys function properly while greatly reducing the risk of kidney stones.
While we’re used to seeing just the word ‘parsley’ on a recipe, there are in fact many different varieties of parsley that each provide their own unique appearance, taste, and texture.
Curly parsley is probably the type with which you’re most familiar. It’s the one that’s commonly used as a garnish in restaurant fare. But just because it’s decorative doesn’t mean it’s not edible! Curly parsley adds a wonderful texture and color to a variety of foods. Curly types are quite versatile, typically growing 8 "–14" in dense clumps — great for growing on a Tower.
● Forest Green: Long, stiff stems keep the leaves of Forest Green high off the ground and make for easy bunching. This is a productive plant that creates an aromatic garnish, and it dries and freezes well.
● Extra Curled Dwarf: As the name implies, Extra Curled Dwarf is a dense, compact plant with very curly leaves. In addition to being quite productive, this plant matures quickly (40–60 days), so it’s a good choice if you want parsley soon — and a lot of it. It also makes a nice ornamental plant.
If you love parsley more for its taste than its texture and color, you’ll want to grow flat-leaf parsley. Growing quite tall (2'–3'), it has flat leaves with a much stronger and sweeter flavor than the curly varieties, making it perfect for cooking.
● Giant of Italy: A large, bushy plant with sturdy stems and large, dark-green, flat leaves, Giant of Italy has an intense flavor and is popular in Italian cooking. It tolerates both heat and frost and dries well, making it perfect for the beginning gardener.
● Titan: A specialty flat-leaf variety that is especially sweet and flavorful, Titan is great in all kinds of cooking. The leaves are small and dark green and make an attractive garnish. The plants are compact, upright, and generally uniform and productive.
● Italian flat leaf: This variety of parsley looks like cilantro but has larger leaves and a strong, slightly peppery taste. It dries well and is perfect for tabbouleh and sauces.
Whether you’re growing parsley indoors or outside, here are some tips to follow when planting this delicious herb.
Parsley is a pretty versatile plant. All it asks for is temperatures between 50° and 85° to grow, plus regular water and sunshine. Aside from that, it’s pretty flexible. With that said, springtime would be an ideal time to begin planting your parsley outdoors.
If you decide to grow indoors with Tower Gardens LED Grow Lights, the outdoor elements won’t matter. You can begin growing whenever you’d like. Just make sure your timer is set so that your garden is getting the proper amount of artificial light and water it needs throughout the day.
Once your parsley seedlings have sprouted, it’s time to transplant them into your garden. Transplanting with Tower Garden is fairly simple and gets easier with practice. If this is your first time or if you’re looking for a refresher, follow these simple steps:
● Step 1: Gently separate the plugs in the rockwool slab. Do your best to break as few roots as possible.
● Step 2: Your assembled Tower Garden should already have a net pot in each planting port. Place each cube with its newly planted seedling into one of these net pots. Guide any hanging roots from the net pot into the growing pot.
● Step 3: Be SURE the bottom of the plug is securely against the bottom of the net pot. This aligns the plant for optimal irrigation inside the Tower and keeps it from getting too dry.
● Tower Garden Tip: You can inter-plant parsley, which means tucking this low-growing, shade-tolerant herb in between taller crops.
Once your parsley has been transplanted, you’ll want to make sure you keep your garden well maintained to avoid pests or other plant problems. For tips on how to properly maintain your Tower Garden, read our guide here.
How long till your parsley is ready to harvest? In general, you can transplant parsley 1–2 weeks after germination (sprouting). Both the curly and flat Italian varieties should be ready to harvest in another 4–7 weeks. Once you’re ready to harvest, simply follow the instructions below:
● Harvest approximately one-third of the plant at once, working from the outside in. This will keep the parsley healthy and productive.
● Harvest by snipping off the stalks close to the base, beginning with the outside stalks. If just the tops are cut off and the leaf stalks remain, the plant will be less productive.
● You can trim parsley throughout the growing season for continual harvest; in fact, if you don’t, the plant will become thin, leggy and much less productive.
● Trim unhealthy leaf stalks at the base of the plant and discard them.
● Harvest just before using for the best flavor.
As mentioned above, parsley is an herb loved and used all around the world. With such an international fanbase, there are endless possibilities when it comes to enjoying parsley and using it in the kitchen. Below are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy parsley:
● Chop it up: One of the most common ways to enjoy parsley is to simply chop it up and add to your favorite dishes. Freshly chopped parsley goes great on soups, pastas, salads, roasted potatoes, steaks, pizzas, and so many other dishes. Don’t chop your parsley too finely, as the bigger pieces look nicer and provide so much more flavor!
● Add to Smoothies: Smoothies are all about providing a healthy boost throughout the day. Similar to spinach, kale, and other leafy greens, adding some parsley to a smoothie can only enhance it by bringing some added flavor and nutritional value.
● Make Pesto: Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, but there’s nothing stopping you from adding some fresh parsley into the mix for added flavor. You can also completely substitute basil for parsley if you desire, and still end up with a truly delicious pesto sauce.
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