Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hamburg parsley

With today's harvest of Hamburg parsley I can say that a several-month-long experiment has produced a grand total of three edible plants. 

Anyone who has grown parsley has probably noticed that when it's time to yank the finished plants out of the ground and replace them, they come out with a small parsnip-like, deep root. Well, Hamburg parsley is a special variety of parsley which has been bred to produce a much larger root. The top of the plant looks just like ordinary parsley, and indeed I have harvested its leaves for cooking several times, and I can find no difference between the flavour of ordinary flat-leaf continental parsley and Hamburg parsley.

Here's the crop in all its dirt-covered glory. They are the same size as parsnips, and one is a bit crooked and lumpy, the other two are much more presentable.

Scrubbed clean they don't really look that attractive, but even as I scrubbed them clean they gave off a parsley-like scent.

The seed packet label says you can use this as a root vegetable (roasted, added to soups etc), as a salad vegie (grated) and in stir-fries (finely sliced or julienned). 

Grating was the easiest first test, and so I brought in the finest palate in the house, Pammy, for her opinion. She says it tasted a bit like very mild horseradish, but nowhere near as hot. I could definitely taste the parsnip resemblance, but she's right about there being a very gentle spiciness there as well when it's just raw and grated. 

So the next test took a while, as I baked the smallest one in the oven (at 180°C) for one hour. And the verdict is ... think "parsnip" but not quite the same. And like older parsnips, this one was a bit woody in the centre, so I have probably left these in the ground too long. Should have harvested them a month or two ago.

Here's the seed packet, with a photo of an award-winning crop of impossibly large and perfect Hamburg parsley roots on the cover, to make you feel just a bit optimistic in the beginning, and a bit deflated six months later (just kidding, I am a proud parent of my slightly misshapen little crop).

And here's the flip-side of the packet. Growing this type of parsley is much the same thing as normal parsley. It grows best from seed, the seeds can take 3 to 4 weeks to come up, and the plants do well in either full sun or semi-shade. They love being watered regularly and well-fed. 

Sow the seeds shallowly (less than 1/2 inch deep), sprinkle them in, cover with soil, water well... then wait, and wait and wait. Keep watering! And one day they will come up when they're good and ready.

The advantage of this type of parsley is simply that you get a bonus crop at the end, and of course it's a bit of an oddball as well. It's basically the same stuff as parsley in the garden, so you can harvest its leaves for cooking as much as you like. The other good thing about it is that it's a good choice for people whose gardens lack a full day of sunshine (and that's a common inner-city gardening problem).

My seed packet's use-by date is August 2015, so it's now or never. It says sow "spring through to autumn" and Sydney has a mild autumn and winter anyway, so I just sowed my second crop this morning. Wish me luck!