Fresh parsley

How to plant, harvest, and use the versatile herb
Sharon Cohoon

It's more than a garnish: The mild, celery-like flavor of parsley's leaves complements just about every savory dish you could prepare.

Use it to flavor stock, soups, or stews. Add it to butter before glazing potatoes or other root vegetables. Substitute parsley for basil in a pesto. Or make the most out of the vitamin-packed (A, C, K) leaves in a salad.

Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor than the curly-leaf kind, but curly parsley has a finer texture that's better in salads.

WHAT PARSLEY NEEDS

In mild-winter areas, plant parsley in October; elsewhere, wait until spring. Start with nursery plants.

Planting

Parsley likes rich soil and at least a half-day's sun. Space flat-leaf parsley 12 to 18 inches apart; curly parsley, 6 to 8 inches apart.

Care

Parsley prefers ample water. In the desert or hot interiors, protect plants from afternoon sun.

Harvesting

Begin harvesting leaves when plants reach 8 inches tall. Cut from the outside to allow the center part of the plant to keep growing. Because parsley's a biennial, its leaf-producing days are over once it starts to flower.