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Hazelnut Parsley Pesto – Garden to Table Cooking
Parsley is so much more than a simple garnish to be served on a dinner plate. This pretty herb has great value both in the garden and kitchen. It adds textural interest whether grown in a kitchen garden or flower bed and makes an attractive edging plant in an herb, flower, knot, or border garden. And it’s a great companion plant for tomatoes, carrots, and roses.
Parsley can be used in any dish, sauce, or salsa that you would use cilantro. Use it in salads, stir into stir-fries, combine with sautéed veggies, add it to omelets or frittatas, mix it in sauces or simmer in soups. And parsley minced with shallots or garlic, then blend with butter for a flavorful spread or topping for sandwiches and baked potatoes.
Choose your parsley
The common garnish is the curly-leafed French parsley, which grows 6 to 12 inches high. The more flavorful flat-leafed Italian parsley–which is similar in appearance to celery leaves or cilantro–is considered the “chef’s choice” and grows from 2 to 3 feet high.
Starting off right
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a cold hardy, biennial herb. The tops typically die back from late fall to mid-winter, but the roots readily sprout with new leaves the following spring. However, many gardeners and growers sow seeds or set out small plants each year in spring.
Seeds take 3 to 6 weeks to germinate, so you’ll get quicker results if you buy seedlings or plants. The young plants can be set out anytime from early spring through fall except in the coldest climates. For fall plantings, flat-leafed varieties are more winter hardy than the curly-leafed types.
This leafy herb tolerates a wide range of growing conditions, but it performs best in lightly filtered to full sun (afternoon shade where summers are hot) and well-drained, rich soil with lots of nitrogen. Good organic sources for nitrogen include compost, aged manure, alfalfa meal, and fish meal.
Thin seedlings or space plants from 6 to 8 inches apart for curly parsley, or from 12 to 18 inches apart for the flat-leafed varieties. Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch plants to conserve soil moisture.
You can begin harvesting fresh leaves as soon as the plants are 6 inches tall. Cut individual sprigs from the outside of the plant, but always let the center leaves remain to encourage continual growth.
Hazelnut Parsley Pesto Recipe
2 cups fresh parsley leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (imported Italian Parmesan cheese)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the parsley, nuts, garlic, cheese and lemon juice in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until well combined. Add the oil mixture through the feed tube in a slow stream, pulsing until smooth.
Serve and enjoy! – Kris Wetherbee
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