Someone asked me the other day “what is the first thing I should plant in my garden?”. I guess the answer to that depends on what exactly it is you want to get out of your garden. If it is to save money – then the answer would be to work out which vegetable you spend the most money on and then plant plenty. If are looking for fabulous flavour then my first choices would probably be garlic and tomatoes because it is hard to source good versions of either in the supermarkets. If you are looking to improve your cooking then the basics for a good stock are hard to beat – having carrots, leeks and/or onions , celery, thyme and parsley on hand means you can always create a reasonable stock to use in anything from sauces, through soups to risottos and back again. If you are looking the try and incorporate more vegetables into your diet then having salad ingredients, like lettuce, radish, cucumbers, carrots and spring onions is going to make it really easy to add a side salad to serve with every meal. For me though the first thing I planted in my garden was parsley; great nutrient content, tastes much better really fresh, and I eat an awful lot of it.
I love parsley, always have – ever since I was a really young kid and the only thing mum could find that I could digest was tripe in parsley sauce, through growing up and all those counter meals when I was often more interested in the garnish – even if it was the curly kind – than the meal itself. You can imagine how excited I was to discover that not only can parsley be flat rather than curly but that it doesn’t have to always be an afterthought, it can be the star of the dish. It should come as no surprise then to tell you that favourite salad is tabouleh and my favourite pasta sauce is puttanesca (with loads of parsley added).
How I grow it:
I grow my parsley from seed which I sow on a quarterly basis to ensure I always have new plants coming on. This isn’t always necessary as, if you time it right and avoid the plant bolting in Spring, plants should last for much of the year. I use parsley to plug holes as it grows in both sun and shade so having new plants coming on is really useful in this respect. For me it would be hard to have too many parsley plants, that would just mean more tabouleh.
What I use it for:
- 2 tablespoons fine bulgar wheat.
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 spring onions
- 1 large bunch parlsey
- 1 bunch mint
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 -3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
Soak the bulgar in water for about 10 minutes whilst you finely chop the tomatoes and spring onions. Season the tomatoes and onion with salt and pepper. Drain the bulgar wheat. Add tomato and onion mixture to the bulgar wheat. Add the lemon juice. Leave for another 10 minutes or so until the wheat is soft and has absorbed some of the lemon and tomato juice. Just before serving finely slice the parsley and mint (if you are struggling to slice the herbs then chopped is fine) and combine with the wheat and tomato mixture. Add olive oil one tablespoon at a time, tasting in between to check all are required. You may also need to add more olive oil depending on the acidity of both the lemon and the tomatoes. Serve.
For another great use for parsley; as a principle component in the sauce Salsa Verde please click here: http://suburbantomato.com/2011/05/herbs-growing-chervil/