Parsley (Petroselinum crispum and neapolitanum) has the misfortune of being a token herb on plates of steak and fish as a garnish. But the resilient sprig is edible and its high chlorophyll content makes it a natural breath sweetener which is good reason to nibble some after a heavy meal.

There are three common varieties of this popular biennial: flat leaf (Italian), curly leaf and parsnip rooted or Hamburg. Parsley has a gentle flavor and works especially well at blending the flavors around it. Both curly leaf and flat leaf varieties are used in cooking, but the flavor of the flat leaf is preferred by chefs. Parsley works with most foods except sweets. It is an important part of the Middle Eastern tabbouleh. The French feature parsley with ham in aspic, with garlic, butter, and escargots; and as persillade, a fine mince of garlic and parsley added at the last moment of cooking to sautés, grilled meats, and poultry. The Belgians and Swiss are fond of fondue with deep-fried parsley on the side. The Japanese also deep-fry parsley in tempura batter. The Mexican and Spaniards use parsley as a prime ingredient in salsa verde, and the English make parsley jelly. When making Italian pesto, try substituting some of the basil with parsley.

Parsley seeds can be sown in late winter for a spring crop or in the late summer after our Texas nights have cooled down a bit for a fall crop. Although hardy during mild winters, the plants that germinate in the fall tend to consider spring their second season and will flower and set seed early. I generally plant half of the seed packet in the fall and the rest in the spring so there are always fresh greens to enjoy with winter soups and summer salads. Because of its deep tap root parsley is difficult to transplant so should be sown where it is to grow. Be patient when planting seeds as they are extremely slow to germinate – up to six weeks. Parsley prefers moderately rich, moist, but well drained soil. It will tolerate partial shade.

As an attractive bright green, compact plant, parsley has earned a place as a border or edging in both herb and ornamental garden beds. It is used as the border of a tussie-mussie. Placed in the vegetable garden, parsley is supposed to repel asparagus beetles. Parsley is susceptible to crown rot. It may be attacked by carrot weevils, parsley worms, or nematodes. It is a favorite food of the black swallow butterfly caterpillar. So be sure to plant extra for both of you.

Although the preferred use of parsley is fresh; it can be frozen and stored in sealed freezer bags.

This recipe was an appetizer favorite of my friends in the Webster Groves Herb Society back in Missouri.

Parsley Spread: Finely chop a bunch of parsley and two cloves of garlic. Add some extra virgin olive oil, just enough to make it moist, a little salt and fresh ground pepper, and some grated Romano cheese. Let rest a bit to blend flavors. Serve on crackers or thin baggett slices.