Kitchen garden favourite - 'Moss Curled' Parsley!

I have a cherished list of kitchen garden favourites you just can’t keep down. They’re the ones you’re still picking three months after you sowed the seed: the ones you secretly get a bit bored of since you can just feast on it every day if you want to and still it comes back for more.

For fantastic value they’re hard to beat. You spend a quid or two on the seed, and that buys you as much food as you can eat for week after week after week.

For sheer bloody-minded persistence, 'moss curled' parsley tops them all. My patch of moss curled parsley is still flourishing, having survived the coldest spring, warmest summer and wettest winter we’ve had since oh I don’t know, and we still pick fistfuls of it every week to scatter with abandon into soups and pastas and just to chew as breath freshener after particularly powerful curries.

I sowed it a whole year ago, in February, and apart from planting it out I haven’t done a thing to it. No protection, no fuss, no coaxing or persuading: it just gets on with producing yet more frothy green deliciousness for us to enjoy.

Yet parsley is living proof that the class system is alive and well, in our kitchens at least. Connoisseurs would eat Uncle Ben’s boil-in-the-bag rice for a week rather than admit to using moss-curled parsley: in the best (for which read most snobbish) kitchens, it’s flat-leaved Italian parsley all the way.

I’m not sure where poor old moss curled got its chavvy reputation. It may be its unfortunate beginnings, since we first discovered it when parsley was parsley, with none of this choice malarkey, and it was without exception used as a slightly pointless garnish.

My first close encounter was as a waitress in a down-at-heel hotel near Worthing on the south coast, where it was de rigeur to plop a sprig of moss curled parsley on top of the prawn cocktail after you’d done that thing with the sprinkle of paprika over bright pink marie rose sauce (we used to mix it in a bucket: mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Not quite so exotic when you put it like that).

And it never quite recovered: the only time you’ll find moss curled parsley in the kitchens of the chattering classes these days is if they happen to be holding a deeply ironic 70s revival party.

Humph. What a lot of rubbish. Moss curled has a stronger, more parsley-ish flavour: and if you’re going to grow parsley, there’s not much point growing stuff you can barely taste once it’s in the pot. It’s also so much more pretty in the garden: a wonderful powder-puff froth of tightly-scrunched green leaves which makes a superb ground cover and bubbles over the edge of raised beds or low walls to edge a line of peas or lettuces with a riot of brilliant green.

And it keeps going. Boy, does it keep going. Poncy flat-leaved parsley is reduced to a little clump of frightened-looking baby leaves by now, shivering too close to the ground to even think about picking. I did for a little while put a cloche over my moss curled last autumn, but it was growing so boisterously it shrugged it off in disdain. I think the only time you’d need to give it protection is if there were a really hard frost, or snow: and then only to make sure the leaves were still edible. The actual plant wouldn’t need it at all.

I’ve just sown the seed for the next row of moss curled, as although last year’s is still in rude health it will, being biennial, throw up flower shoots some time in early summer. Then, of course, you can save the seed for next year, or just let it seed itself around and pot up the seedlings. Now that’s what I call a class act.

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