In March 2020, I found myself working from home full-time and with more time on my hands than usual. Like many people, I developed an interest in growing a few herbs and vegetables. I successfully started some seeds off, however at the stage of planting my young seedlings in containers in the garden, a few setbacks dented my newfound confidence. As a newbie gardener, I was very trusting that I could put my little plants out into the garden and they would flourish with little oversight from me. Oh, how wrong I was! Slugs decimated my lettuces; caterpillars tunnelled unsightly holes through my leafy greens. Most curious of all was the case of the mysterious vanished beetroot. The stalks protruded from the soil in all their bold purple glory, but upon harvesting there were no beetroots to be found, just lots of tangled roots, earwigs, and the ugliest, fattest slugs I have ever seen gummed to the underside of the container!
Thankfully, my indoor plants fared a little better, thanks to being away from hungry critter mouths. We recently enjoyed some basil that I had grown from seed, which lifted my spirits. So when pottering around Village Greens Co-op in Prestwich a few weeks ago and I came across some seeds for sale, I decided to give growing another go. Invariably there’s almost always some parsley and pak choi in our fridge, and the guidance on the packets advised that both would be suitable for sowing in late summer, so it seemed an obvious choice!
Parsley can be grown indoors or outdoors. There are two forms of parsley: curly-leaved and flat-leaved (Italian) parsley. Curly-leaved forms have a subtle flavour whereas the flat-leaved types have a stronger taste. Sowing in late summer as I have done will provide winter leaves, which if grown outside will need protection with a cloche.
Parsley has many health benefits. It has a diuretic effect and is rich in antioxidants that can help relieve congestion and inflammation in the kidneys and bladder. It has numerous medicinal uses, including as a general tonic for the body and as a digestive aid. It is rich in vitamin K, which helps support healthy bones, and vitamins A and C, which have antioxidant properties.
About pak choi
(Celery mustard) Brassica rapa Chinensis Group
Pak choi is part of a group of fast-growing oriental greens, and it is closely related to Chinese cabbage. We love this mild, juicy and crisp-textured vegetable in our house; we regularly add pak choi leaves, stems and flowering shoots to stir fries or we briefly steam it in a bamboo steamer for a delicious accompaniment to Asian dishes.
The seed variety that I bought – Taisai – is a ‘soup spoon’ type of pak choi. One of my gardening books (‘Grow your own vegetables’ by Joy Larkcom) tells me that the seed should mature into “tall elegantly ‘waisted’ plants with slightly cupped leaves and long leaf stalks (petioles)” and should have a delicate flavour.
Like parsley, pak choi has many health benefits. Pak choi is part of the cruciferous vegetable family that also includes broccoli, kale and cauliflower. This group of plants is linked to cancer prevention. Pak choi is rich is beta-carotene, a source of antioxidants, and it is a rich source of many other essential vitamins and nutrients including vitamin A, K, C, D, B6 and many others.
I am looking forwards to watching my little fledgling plants develop. Watch this space for growing updates!