Parsley, whose scientific name is Petroselinum crispum, has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. Its name is derived from the Greek word petroselinon, which means "rock celery." This interesting herb can bring together the flavor of other herbs and spices and is perfect for adding a touch of color to any plate as a garnish.
Parsley leaf has an essential oil content of 0.06% to 0.1% and is mostly made up of myristicin.
Parsley has some interesting names. You may hear it called garden parsley, common parsley, or even Western coriander. In Arabic it is called "makdunis," in Manadrin it is "xiang cai," in French you will hear "persil," German speakers call it "petersilie," in Hindi it is "ajmood," in Japanese it is "paseri," in Portuguese it is "salsinha," in Russian it is "petrushka," and in Spanish it is called "perejil."
Parsley has an interesting history that spans over 2,000 years. At first, this lovely little herb was used for medicinal purposes. It was believed to be a good diuretic as well as a blood cleaner. It has high chlorophyll content which helps it absorb odor, making it an effective treatment for halitosis.
According to Ancient Greek legend, parsley comes from the spilled blood of Archemorus, or the forerunner of death. He was eaten by serpents and wherever his blood fell, parsley followed. Because of this, parsley was associated with death during this period, so much so that the saying "he is in need of parsley" meant a person was nearing death or was unlikely to survive an illness. In a similar vein, after a person had died their body would be covered in parsley to deodorize them. In Greece, there were athletic contests hosted in honor of some of the deceased, and when the victor was crowned it was with a crown made of parsley. There was also a Greek belief that parsley went back and forth to the Devil nine times before it could sprout because it takes so long to germinate. It was also kept away from nursing mothers because it was believed parsley would give babies epilepsy.
The Romans had some other ideas about parsley, even though they also avoided eating it. At Roman weddings, wreaths of parsley were given to newlyweds as protection against evil spirits. During feasts or holidays, wreaths of parsley would be worn to ward off intoxication.
Charlemagne enjoyed parsley so much that he grew it all over his estates in France. He loved to have this herb with his cheeses.
In Devonshire, England there was a belief that transplanting parsley would bring the transplanter or a member of his or her immediate family some sort of punishment within a year. The specifics of the punishment were not ever given, though some reports indicate it was a bodily harm.
During Passover, Jewish people would use parsley in their meals as a symbol of new beginnings. There is still parsley present in a variety of Jewish holiday foods.
Parsley was brought to American by the very first colonists and has remained a staple herb ever since.
Parsley takes a very long time to germinate, usually 21-25 days. It does best in sunny regions, with 6 hours of direct sunlight per day being the ideal. The seeds prefer to be planted under 1/8 inch of soil, and will be more productive in soil that is well drained and full of organic material. They require a decent amount of water, but do not like being overwatered. When the parsley finally sprouts, it will appear grass-like at first.
The plants can be harvested after roughly 60-70 days. If the plants are snipped close to the ground during harvest, new growth will be encouraged. If just the top parts of the stalk are cut, the plants will be less productive. These plants can grow from 6" to 14".
Parsley grown in the United States makes up for about 40% of the total parsley usage in America.
There are two popular varieties of parsley that you may encounter at the grocery store. Curly parsley with curly leaves and Italian parsley, which has flat leaves. Many recipes will call for parsley with little inclination of which type they are referring to. Mostly, they mean Italian parsley since this is the more flavorful of the two. Curly parsley is often used for decoration or as a plate garnish.
There are also other varieties of parsley grown such as Hamburg, Banquet, Dark Moss Colored, Decorator, Deep Green, Forest Green, Improved Market Gardener, Moss Curled and Sherwood. These are most frequently used for culinary purposes.
Parsley is easily the most neglected herb in American cuisine, frequently added to a plate last minute as a garnish.
In European dishes, you are more likely to find it as an ingredient, usually in soups, sauces, and pies. You will also find parsley on meat and fish in European based dishes. It is a key ingredient for French spice blend Fines Herbs. Italians also use parsley in their sauces and with seafood.
Chimichurri is an easy sauce made with parsley. You can recreate this sauce with just a few simple ingredients. Take one cup of flat leaf parsley with the stems trimmed, two teaspoons of dried oregano, 3 or 4 garlic cloves, ½ cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Chop the parsley very finely, and add it with the oregano and garlic cloves into a food processor. Pulse a few times, then combine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Chimichurri is similar to pesto sauce so it can be used on pasta, potatoes, meat and fish.
Parsley is excellent with garlic, shallots, beans, chicken, butter, lentils, and potatoes.
Add Parsley at the end of cooking to ensure that prolonged heat doesn't destroy its flavor.
Some excellent recipes featuring parsley include Flat Iron Steak and Carrots with Parsley Pesto, Grilled Vegetable Pasta, and Crab and Corn Chowder.
Dried herbs tend to be a little bit more flavorful than their fresh counterparts, because their essential oils are released freely when they have dried due to cellular wall breakup.
Dried parsley can be kept for up to a year, whereas fresh parsley can usually only keep for about two weeks or less in the refrigerator.
Organic parsley is savory and herbaceous.
Chervil is the best substitute for parsley, as it also has a delicate flavor.
Because dried herbs are usually so much more flavorful than fresh herbs, it is best to use about one third of what the recipe calls for in fresh parsley. So, if you are using a tablespoon of fresh parsley, you can substitute that for a teaspoon of dried parsley.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*