No one in her right mind buys parsley plants. They are simply too easy to start from seed, right? Well, maybe not on a strip of land in north Texas, midst the USDA-designated “Grand Prairie,” where the soil is so alkaline as to resemble gray chalk. So I paid the price. It’s still cheaper than buying the cut parsley for $2.50 per recipe.
Like all my herbs, this one went into a clay pot full of beautiful store-bought loam. I watered and fertilized and Ms. Parsley promptly rewarded me with new, dark green leaves.
All sailed smoothly for a couple of weeks. Suddenly, the weather went all hot and dry, as spring in Texas is wont to do. I watered all the herbs but the parsley seemed particularly unhappy about it and began to turn yellow around the edges.
Investigating, I found two very large caterpillars making lunch of my investment. I knew their names immediately–Papilio polyxenes asterius (Stoll)–these were larvae with whom I had previously done business. The spiky green worms with black bands and yellow dots are the larvae stage of the black swallowtail butterfly.
The last time I planted parsley, the voracious consumers got the best of me and had completely defoliated the plants before I found them. I popped the chrysalises into a jar so I could see what emerged before deciding they were worthy of life.
How beautiful! Photos simply don’t capture the way sunlight makes the blue scales sparkle. I released the hatching butterflies, of course, and was glad I hadn’t squashed them out of existence in my irritation at losing my herbs.
This year the two worms are caught in the act and I have a decision to make. Do I want parsley or beauty?
Life is full of hard choices. Sometimes there isn’t a good way to go.
What do you think? Do I go buy another parsley plant before the garden center sells out? Or do I squash? Who lives–green plant or blue and black flutter-by varmint?
(Mature butterfly photograph from Wikipedia commons, by D. Gordon E. Robertson on this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Swallowtail,_male,_Ottawa.jpg)