ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN
Branches of parsley are cut from the plants.
We have had a wonderfully warm autumn and my vegetable garden still has lots of things growing in it even as Thanksgiving approaches.
The parsley leaves are cut from the branches and the stems are discarded. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
The parsley is chopped in the food processor and packed into ice cube trays. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
The trays are filled with water, covering the chopped parsley. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Frozen “parsley cubes” are used in the kitchen during the winter to add a taste of summer to many recipes. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Most of the vegetables that have survived are relatively frost-tolerant, such as lettuce and radish, Swiss chard, parsnips and beets, as well as carrots. I have been covering a zucchini plant and a couple of cucumber plants — both NOT cold tolerant — on cold nights so that the small fruits on them have a chance to grow.
Another plant that is still quite robust in the garden is my parsley. I usually buy a couple of small plants from the local greenhouse in the spring, as we seem to use a lot of parsley in our kitchen.
Much of the parsley — as well as a few celery plants located nearby — is used in canned tomato soup as the tomatoes ripen, so I always keep the parsley and celery going until the soup making is done. I have only had to throw a blanket over these plants a few times so far as on many nights the temperatures have stayed above freezing.
After the soup is all made and canned, it is time to harvest the remainder of the parsley — it would be a shame to waste such nutritious greens, which have a myriad of uses in the kitchen. Parsley can be added to all kinds of recipes, including soups, stews, and other meat dishes.
Although some of the lower, outside branches of the parsley are past their best by this time of year and are relegated to the compost bin, many of the stems toward the centre of the plants are still in fine shape. I snip these off and take them into the kitchen for processing.
Inside, I wash the parsley and place it on a towel to dry. I take a sharp pair of scissors and snip off the leafy parts of the parsley, discarding the stems, which tend to be tough and hard even after processing.
The next step is to get out the food processor and chop the parsley; the chopped parsley is stuffed into ice cub trays — I say stuffed because it is packed in as tightly as possible. Then the trays are filled with water to cover the parsley.
After the ice cube trays of parsley are frozen, they are removed from the freezer and the "parsley cubes" removed from the trays, bagged into sturdy plastic bags, and returned to the freezer. These parsley cubes are used in the kitchen during the winter — the frozen cubes are simply popped into the pot and add a really fresh taste to any recipe.
Parsley is very easy to grow. I used to grow my own plants from seed planted indoors in March (it is quite slow to germinate) but recently I simply buy a couple of plants from the greenhouse — I have become lazy! Parsley is quite tolerant of cold so parsley plants are among the first to go into the garden.
Although the plants will be quite small when first planted out, space them at least 50 centimetres apart as the mature plants will get quite big. When planted in a container, parsley’s crinkly foliage adds a nice touch to a mixed container — I prefer the moss-curled varieties that have attractive crinkly leaves.
The plants will probably not get quite as large when grown in containers, but they will perform quite satisfactorily. A mixed herb container kept near the kitchen door is handy during the summer; the cook can snip pieces of herbs for use in summer recipes.
Parsley is undemanding but performs best when planted in rich garden soil that is kept moist. Because it has a deep taproot, however, it can withstand dry spells without ill effects.
I like to plant my parsley plants near the walkway in the vegetable patch just because it is such an attractive plant. It is great when a plant performs double duty — being useful as an edible plant but also lending itself to adding beauty to the garden.
If you have a parsley plant still lingering in your garden, don’t let it go to waste. Harvest the parsley and make "parsley cubes" for use during the winter. They will add a taste of summer to your winter cuisine.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 11, 2012