Is It Worth It To Grow Home-Grown Parsley? Hell Yes! [Plus: Bonus Butterflies]

Readers, we've been running a little experiment over the past two years with home-grown parsley. We wanted to see if it was worth it to grow it at home--worth it in the sense of the cost, the time involved, and the quality of the parsley we grew.

Well, it is worth it... in many more ways than we expected. Two years ago, in springtime, Laura bought a $1.49 packet of parsley seeds, and put them in a big $2.50 plastic pot filled with $2-3 worth of potting soil. We set that baby out on our little balcony and just let it grow.

Any time we had a recipe calling for fresh parsley I'd run out there with a pair of scissors, give Mr. Parsley a quick haircut, and return with a handful of parsley so fresh and fragrant, you could hardly believe it.

Better still, when winter rolled around that year, we just brought our parsley plant inside and let him keep growing. The following spring, not only did he yield even more parsley, he began flowering too, which later produced (free) seeds for us. We'll probably give those away, but if we wanted to, we could theoretically grow still more parsley in still more pots at minimal extra cost.

As it was, that one pot by itself produced plenty of parsley, as much as we could use. And each time I harvested parsley off of this plant, I saved money, time, and effort in a wide range of ways: I no longer needed to remember to write "parsley" on my grocery list, I no longer needed to pay a grocery store $1.99 for a bunch of three-week-old parsley leaves shipped in from California or Mexico. For two years and counting, I never even needed to think about this very common recipe ingredient.

All of these benefits grew from a one-time cost of less than $7.00. Which means this pot of parsley easily paid for itself in season one, and will continue to offer value and convenience to us for who knows how many years.

This year, however, there was yet one more benefit, a gigantic one. A few weeks ago, we started seeing a few visitors in and around some of the leaves on our parsley plant--little dark caterpillars like this one:

The other day I took a close look around in there and was shocked to see this guy!

We freaked out at first (Gahhh! What the heck is that??) but then discovered it's the caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly--a beautiful butterfly that's perhaps second only to the Monarch in popularity among butterfly fans. The smaller, darker caterpillars were simply at an earlier development stage. The freakish looking "mature" caterpillar should begin forming a chrysalis in another 10 days or so.

Wow. So in addition to two years' supply (and counting) of fresh parsley, we got a bonus free lepidoptery class too. Yep, it's definitely worth it to grow home-grown parsley.

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