Italian Flat Leaf Parsley is a biennial plant that grows the first year and blooms the second. In cold climates, it is simply an annual, and can't winter over. Growing to a mature height of about a 15 to 18 inches tall, Italian Flat Leaf is a somewhat bushy herb. It develops sturdy, slender stems and its flat leaves are deeply serrated and dark green. At first glance, you might even mistake the leaves for that of Cilantro herbs.
You can grow Italian flat leaf parsley in your herb bed, in a window box, a container garden, or even indoors. It makes an attractive backdrop to shorter annual flowers in a flower garden and can be used as a border. Plant at least 18 inches apart; if they are too close, they can get mildew.
It likes rich, moist soil, and should be planted in sun to partial shade. In its second spring, when the white flowers appear, it will get bitter. Pull up the old plants and start new ones. It does best in temperate climates; it doesn't like serious heat and will freeze out in cold winters.
Parsleyworm caterpillars are brightly colored in green and black. They won't kill your parsley, but can quickly eat up the leaves. They grow into beautiful swallowtail butterflies. If you notice you have them but want the butterflies, just grow extra parsley. Less enjoyable pests could include aphids, armyworm, and army cutworm.
Flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor than its curly cousin, which is used more often for decoration. Italian flat leaf parsley is one of the most widely used herbs in traditional Italian cooking. It is one of the chief herbs in bouquet garni.
The entire plant is edible. The leaves are soft and are good whole or chopped, and the stems are tasty anywhere you want a bit of crunch and flavor, and hold up better to longer cooking times.
Flat leaf parsley is delicious is soups, stews, salads, stocks, fish dishes, and vegetable dishes. Add it near the end of the cooking cycle in most recipes, as long times on heat can make it lose flavor. It makes a tasty herb butter. It is high in vitamins A, C, E, and has a high iron content. Chewed fresh, it makes a good breath freshener.
To harvest, clip the leaves back to the base of the plant at any time once plants are established. They will grow back even bushier. You can store it wrapped in a damp paper towel in your fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it and keep in plastic bag in your freezer for longer. You can also dry it.