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Parsley: Not Just on the Side

Parsley might not have a bigger fan in the Rogue Valley than Pam Rouhier, sales associate at Medford's Grange Co-op. "I chop it up in everything: soup, meatloaf, salad. It's so good for you," she says enthusiastically. "I grow it in a pot right by the kitchen door."

Parsley is so easy to grow, and needs such little care, that it is a great way to share gardening with children. "Bugs don't like it," says Rouhier. If slugs or snails make their way in, they are easily discovered and routed, especially if it is planted in a pot.

The herb is a biennial and if you plant in spring, you'll be able to harvest from that plant for two years. Keep cutting back the flower stalks. Eventually it will go to seed, but just "rip it out and re-plant," counsels Rouhier. She feeds her plant a high nitrogen organic fertilizer to get the most leaf production.

Curly parsley is also a good plant to use in your flower bed where it can "keep things looking pretty" even in the summer months. Two, 4-inch starts of parsley can go into a 12-inch pot and "it will fill up completely with parsley," she says. If you want some more color, interplant your parsley with zinnias.

When the garden produce gets ahead of Rouhier, she gathers her abundance and puts it in a pot: eggplant, tomato, peppers, even broccoli and green beans. Then she cooks it until soft with parsley and garlic, puts it through a food mill and stashes it in the freezer in bags. It goes into her pasta sauces and soups all winter. The compliments she gets from family keep her bagging this sauce year after year.

Ashland's Market of Choice chef Taji Donahoo agrees parsley has too much flavor to remain solely a garnish. She uses parsley to flavor salads. "It's really nice in a pasta salad or in a cold rice and legume salad," she says. "I have young children and I use it on my own food at home because it has a lot of chlorophyll and antioxidants."

Juicing makes chlorophyll more available, and parsley is a main ingredient, along with carrots and beets, in one of the drinks at the Mind's Eye fresh Juice Bar in Ashland. "People can request it be added to any fresh juice," says Amanda McNaughton, the juice barista. "It's got a fresh taste."

Donahoo suggests that the stems be used to flavor a very light-colored stock. They will impart flavor but not change the color of the broth, as the leaves will do. Donahoo's clear garden stock would include the rough ends of carrots and onions and the stalks of the parsley, bell peppers and celery leaves, and vegetable peelings like white and sweet potato skins, "in any proportion that you have them." "Fresh herbs like thyme and marjoram also add nice flavor. You can't go wrong if you use those basic ingredients," Donahoo says. "Tailor it to your own tastes." Avoid strong-flavored vegetables like broccoli or cabbage.

Flat or Italian parsley is good chopped fine mixed with garlic, olive oil and diced tomatoes over tuna and pasta. Add the cheese of your choice: parmesan or feta. Parsley has an affinity with walnuts, garlic and strong cheeses. Or try Chef Donahoo's recipe on this page. Your next surprise might be a pot of parsley right outside the kitchen door.

Parsley: Not Just on the Side