Though this title sounds like something Harry Potter or Hermione Granger would utter as an incantation, it is merely my prodding to get out there and get a crop at its absolute best during the brief window before it inevitably declines. The crop is, as the title suggests, Petroselinum crispum, better know to us muggles as parsley, and I find it absolutely irresistible this time of year.
In the Pacific NW parsley is a stalwart of the fall and winter garden. Though it can be planted year round, it does tend to bolt, or go to seed, rather quickly when days are lengthening, like now! Although for consistency of production I do seed it indoors monthly then transplant it into the garden when ready (warning: it takes an agonizingly long time to germinate), August is really the prime month for seeding, in my opinion, because it’s a long, slow grow into fall as days shorten and temperatures cool. During the winter it’s a champ at resisting frost, and, if the cold has not been too severe or too prolonged, it will regrow wonderfully during spring, gathering leafy green energy before its swan song, which brings me to my point.
Having come through the winter, its taste will have sweetened, as is the case for many leafy greens (which convert starches to sugars to act as antifreeze in their leaves). That fact combined with the succulence and lushness of the new growth makes me an absolute fiend for spring parsley, causing me to stuff my mouth and delay other garden tasks as I stand over the plant eating leaf after leaf after leaf. A Mr. Hyde madness comes over me and after a feeding binge, I may unwittingly have green leafy bits all over and between my teeth. Dr. Jeckyl, knowing his alter-ego too well, keeps a tin of toothpicks in the car because this spring parsley mania could cause him social embarrassment if not properly recovered from.
|Note the crazed look in the eye that comes over the parsley fiend fresh from his binge. The greenery packed in between the teeth is a sure sign of advanced mania.
All that succulent spring growth is poignantly bittersweet, because after too many warm spring days, a seed stalk goes up like a flag of surrender, and the plant turns from leaf growth to seed production, from which time its flavor markedly declines. So this narrow window of early to mid-spring is the best time for parsley, when it is still greening and asymptotically close to perfection. Seize the day, seize the best parsley of the season, and look up asymptotically if you don’t know what that means.