Botanical Name: Carum petroselinum (AKA: Petroselinum crispum)

Common Name: Parsley

Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)

Ayurvedic/TCM Name: Prajmoda

Parts Used: leaves, seeds and roots in some varieties

Native Region:
Indigenous to the eastern Mediterranean; naturalized in Europe and widely cultivated around the globe as an herb, spice, and vegetable. [1]

Botanical Description: Garden parsley is a bright green, biennial plant in temperate regions and an annual herb in subtropical and tropical areas. Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tri-pinnate leaves 10-25 cm long with numerous 1-3 cm leaflets, and a tap root used as a food store over the winter. In the second year, it grows a flowering stem to 75 cm (30 in.) tall with sparse leaves and flat-topped 3-10 cm diameter umbels with numerous 2 mm diameter yellow to yellowish-green flowers. The seeds are ovoid, 2-3 mm long, with prominent style remnants at the apex. One of the compounds of the essential oil is apiol. The plant normally dies after seed maturation.

Growing Parsley: Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun. Best growing temperatures are 72-86º F. There are several cultivars, depending on the form of the plant. Leaf parsley is divided into two main groups, flat leaf and curly leaf varieties. It is usually started from obstinate seeds, that require presoaking to speed up germination. When the temperatures get hot, parsley should be partially shaded to avoid sunburning. For a continuous supply, three sowings are recommended: one in February as weather permits, in April or early May, and in July and early August, the last to ensure an overwintering supply (flat leaf variety does best). These should be planted in a sheltered position, with southern exposure. The February crop will take longer to germinate, waiting for the earth to warm, but these plants will be good for summer eating and drying purposes. Broadcast seeds and slightly cover with 1.2 in soil. Thin to 12’ apart and be sure to eat the thinning. Water liberally in dry weather, cut off dying leaves. [2]

Harvesting Parsley: Pick leaves from the plant, stem and all. Rinse and store in moist plastic bag or cut stems under water and store in vase covered with plastic bag in refrigerator to minimize drying out. The more leaves you pick the more leaves you’ll get. In the second year, the plant will go to seed quickly. Leaves will change from flat tri-pinnate leaves to fine strings. You can harvest seeds when mature, store for reseeding or let some fall to the ground and reseed for you.[3] Another type of parsley is grown as a root vegetable, the Hamburg root parsley. This type of parsley produces much thicker roots and is common in central and eastern European cuisine, where it is used in soups and stews, or simply eaten raw as a snack. Although root parsley looks similar to the parsnip, its taste is quite different. [2] To dry parsley at the end of summer for culinary use, it can be dried slowly in an oven or dehydrator, crumbled, and stored in a dark, air-tight container to preserve color. [1]

Culinary Uses: The flat leaf “Italian” parsley is the most strongly flavored. This is the variety to use for cooking. Curly parsley is much prettier on a plate, but has less flavor and is mostly used for garnishes. Parsley can be used anywhere in cooking you want some bright green color. It is beautiful and adds a brightness to the flavor of Cole slaw. It is often used in middle eastern recipes like Lebanese Tabbouleh, where it is the key ingredient. Parsley is a classic soup herb. It is an aromatic vegetable that makes the flavor richer. You can use stems and all. It’s a wonderful addition to cooked vegetables, especially green beans or peas, as it tends to accentuate the flavor of the vegetable. It can be added sparingly to salads, chopped and dried, or chopped and frozen in ice cubes. [3] Curly parsley preserves better frozen. Just take from freezer to cooking without defrosting. 

Photo: Wikimedia

Fresh parsley should be chosen over dried parsley since it has superior flavor. It should be deep green in color and crisp. Fresh parsley can be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If it looks slightly wilted, cut the stems under water and let stand in the water for a few minutes. You should see it “perk up” quickly. When using it in cooked dishes, add it near the end of the cooking process. [5]

Medicinal Uses: The uses of Parsley are many. Historically, the medicinal uses of parsley were popular long before it was considered to have culinary benefits. [4] In ancient Greece, it was used to adorn winners of athletic contests and in decorating tombs of the dead. 

The vitamin content in parsley is interesting. It has twice the amount of iron as spinach and three times the vitamin C of an orange. Parsley also contains 574% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, associated with promoting strong bones, as it helps improve calcium absorption and reduce urinary excretion of calcium. There is some research on vitamin K and Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention. [4]

Parsley also helps as a natural detox aid and a diuretic. Medicinally, the two-year old roots are employed along with the leaves, for making Parsley Tea, and the seeds, for the extraction of an oil called Apiol, which is of considerable curative value and was used in malarial disorders. Parsley has carminative, tonic and aperient action, but is chiefly used for its diuretic properties. A strong decoction of the root being of great service in kidney conditions. Parsley tea proved useful in the trenches during war time when soldiers got kidney complications, when suffering from dysentery.    

Parsley contains two unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first is volatile oil components; the second type is flavonoids. The volatile oils, like myristicin, have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies, particularly, tumors in the lungs. It is considered a “chemoprotective” food that can neutralize carcinogens like benzopyrene – a part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke. The flavonoids in parsley – like luteolin, have been shown to function as antioxidants and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells.

 Recipes

Combine chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, chopped green onions, mint leaves, lemon juice and olive oil to make tabbouleh.

Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture to its green color.

Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for chicken, lamb or beef.

Add to soups and tomato sauces.

Chopped parsley can be sprinkled on salads, vegetable sautés and grilled fish

Mix with chopped cabbage and shredded carrots, adding salad dressing or mayonnaise for a refreshing Cole Slaw.

References

1. https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/parsle09.html
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsley
3. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/faqs/culi-2-23-parsley.html
4. https://jonbarron.org/herbal-library/foods/medicinal-uses-of-parsley
5. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=100&tname=foodspice 

Billie Nicholson, Editor
March 2018

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