Saturday, March 14, 2020

ITALIAN PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum var. neopolitanum)

For the first time, I grew Curly-leaf Parsley last winter and I was smart enough to grow it in partial shade.  Although the plant died later in the summer I was much encouraged and went to buy another small Parsley plant this winter.  However, when I got to Home Depot, all they had was the flat leafed Italian Parsley so that is what I ended up with.  It is the first time I have ever grown it, or used it in cooking, and I must say that I am a fan of it now.  The plant even seemed not to bothered by the salt wind events of the season.

Internet sites say that Italian Parsley can be grown in full sun or partial shade but the only way I would attempt to grow it in Hawaii is to make sure it is shaded from the hot afternoon sun.  I would also only get it started in the cool months.  Parsley is meant to be a biennial or two year plant but I think is best to think of it as an annual here.  They do need a rich soil full of compost and high nitrogen.

Italian Parsley is always propagated by seed but it can take a month to get anything growing.  An easier way is to buy a small 4" pot plant and transplant it into a bigger container or into the garden. It can even do quite well in a hanging pot so works well in a patio garden.  I grow mine in a low container placed under a curry leaf tree. (Aug, 2015)  The plant gradually fattens up.  Cutting the old big leaves from the bottom encourages new leaf growth in the center and these younger leaves and stems have more flavor.

Sometime people get mixed up between Cilantro and Italian Parsley.  Cilantro has a similar looking leaf but it is smaller and more delicate with a stronger fragrance.

Of course Parsley is used a lot as a garnish but if we actually put it in our food we can get the nutritional benefits from it too.  I guess I use Italian Parsley the most in tuna and egg sandwiches but it also gets added to salads.  The stems are usually added to a "bouquet garni" when making stock and soups.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

CULANTRO (Eryngium foetid)

Recently I noticed 4" pots of Culantro for sale at Home Depot.  I was looking for a long term replacement for Cilantro.  If I buy Cilantro plants they seem to bolt into flowers and seeds within a few months. ( If I do do buy Cilantro I will only buy them in winter months, only give nitrogen fertilizer, and still expect to only have them for a few months.)  Because Culantro has the same flavor as Cilantro I thought it might be a good replacement.  At least it would be fun to grow something new.

Young plant with first flower stalk starting from center.

I remember seeing Culantro for the first time in Thailand several years ago.  The fact that it is now for sale in Honolulu shows that we are getting a much wider range of herbs sold locally now.  I have been having a look around the internet for information on the plant.  It looks like  Culantro can easily bolt in the summer too.....bother!  Maybe it will not be a long term replacement for cilantro.  However, if kept in partial shade and if you keep trimming off the leaves it may last up to two years.  So we will see how it goes.  This will mean notes added at the bottom of this post in the future.

Large flower frond with seeds forming at center of each rosette.

I was also surprised to find out that this plant is actually native to the Caribbean islands and Mexico.  It is usually called Vietnamese Cilantro here in Hawaii so I expected it to be an Asian native.  In the wild it grows in moist, shady areas,  The one plant I bought has grown well in a 6 gallon pot and now has a few babies growing from the side.  It did grow a huge green flowering frond which I let mature to observe it.   Apparently this plant will self seed easily but it is best to cut the flowers off to keep the leaves tender and tasty.  I have found slugs nibbling at the leaves so keep an eye out for them.

The plant now older with babies growing...note slug damage too.

One of my sons loves the Culantro leaves in his Saimin.  They are also used a lot at Pho restaurants. It is better to cut the leaves off with some scissors rather than just pulling the leaves off and risk damaging the plant.  I am still deciding if the chopped Culantro leaves work in my lunch sandwiches..  Time for a bit of experimenting.  I plan to divide some of the new babies off the  mother plant to pot up as they get bigger.