Curly parsley is probably the best known of all herbs and was de rigeur, chopped, as an emerald green garnish for virtually all dishes. What cook book failed to advise you to sprinkle some chopped parsley over the finished dish? But parsley does more than look good, it actually enhances the flavour of other foods with its iron-rich tang and is also full of vitamin C. The leaves are curly with toothed edges that look more like an inflorescence than a leaf. The flowers form in summer and are creamy white, flat umbels that form small seeds that are also delicious to eat. Curly parsley is related to the French Flat Leaf variety but has a slightly more iron-rich but milder flavour and coarser leaves.
Mr McGregor clearly thought of parsley as a vital part of his perfect potager. Parsley's vibrant, emerald green, foliage looks marvellous against other would be crops in your garden. It is second to none as an edging plant next to brightly flowered nasturtiums or pumpkins and works well in hanging baskets or pots (inside or out) so long as you remember that parsley has a long tap root which means that it needs lots of space, does not like being transplanted and gulps water down. Potted parsley does really well but demands attention! If you have the space, grow some parsley in a sheltered spot for harvesting through out winter, while you raid a patch that is east or west facing during the summer months. Be warned that parsley in its second year can often quickly run to seed so you may well find yourself digging it up in favour of that year's crop. The advantage of this is that it will self seed too so once you have planted a row of parsley, unless you have a particularly vicious winter, you should have parsley returning year after year. Parsley is one of the main ingredients in all bouquets garni - whether for fish or for meat - and chopped up with tarragon, chives and chervil for an omelette fines herbes is almost the perfect meal, Elizabeth David style and remember parsley sauce or even soup?
Parsley has long been recognised for its medicinal qualities such as acting as a strong diuretic for urinary infections and to increase breast milk. Apart from freshening the breath (from garlic) the Romans made garlands of it for banquet guests to prevent intoxication and to absorb strong odours. The seeds should be sown on Good Friday to ensure a good harvest.