The name “Petroselinum crispum” derives from the Greek word “petros” meaning “stone” and it is a reference to its tendency to grow in rocky soils. It is native from Southern Europe, Mediterranean Region. Like many other herbs, parsley was first used as a medicine. A lot later people began to use it as food.
Legends and Folklore
Although it has tremendous benefits for health, parsley had a dark side during its history: it was connected to death and devil, being feared by the old Greeks. These myths may be attributed to another plant that looks like parsley, called “fool’s parsley” that is actually poisoning.
The Roman historian Plutarch said that a Celtic leader exploited the Greeks’ fear of parsley by sending before their army hundreds of donkeys loaded with the greenery. Seeing the deadly plants, the Greeks would have broken the ranks, leaving the Celtic kingdom safe from an impending invasion.
Despite their fear, the Greeks thought this plant to be very powerful and victorious athletes were rewarded with a wreath of parsley. Also, the branches of this plant combined with hyacinths were used as a crown for the young brides.
The Greeks had an explanation for the long germination period of parsley. They believed that this type of vegetable seeds, dedicated to the goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld, went nine times in Hades and returned back to earth before they take roots.
In Roman culture parsley was spread over bread at breakfast. Some said that if its seeds were thrown in a pond with sick fish they could get healthy. Also it was believed that a garland of parsley placed around the neck have the potential to prevent drunkenness.
In Roman mythology parsley was growing in abundance in Ogygia, the death island ruled by Calypso.
Later on, after 1500 years, parsley is appreciated as a remedy against poisons. Its leaves arranged around a plate of food were a sign of good faith. It is said that because of this superstition this plant has come to be widely used as a garnish or ornament for a large variety of dishes.
Curled Leaf – it is most common in US and it has some cultivars such as: Forest Green (it has a nice flavor and loves heat); Decorator (with thicker leaves and an intense green color); Pagoda (it has a longer stem); Extra Triple Curled, Frisca (as their name says, their leaves are curlier than other types).
Flat Leaf – most used in Europe and other regions of the world. Its aroma is more intense and among the cultivars you may reach Italian Dark Green (the strongest flavor), Gigante Catalogno (flat, large leaves), Italian Plain Leaf (the fastest growing).
Hamburg Parsley – or German parsley, you may find it in ethnic and specialty markets. It is used for the root and not for the leaves.
As we stated earlier, at first this herb was used for medicinal purposes.
Pliny said that it could be a remedy for sick fish and he also mentioned it as a flavor for sauces and broths.
In Tudor times, parsley gained a reputation as a miraculous cure for baldness.
It was believed that it is a powerful antidote against poisoning and also that counteracts with the strong smell of garlic.
Nicholas Culpepper referred to parsley’s diuretic effect and its capacity to release the pain associated with women’s period.
Nowadays, the health benefits of parsley are very well known and studied. Parsley contains more Vitamin C than lemon, orange and cabbage. In addition it has vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, K and E in its composition. It is also an important source of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals (potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium), essential oils, fat and flavonoids.
Due to its rich content in vitamin A and C it is a powerful antioxidant, detoxifying, anti allergic and anti tumor plant. It strengthens the liver and stimulates the activity of the gall bladder. Parsley has an antispasmodic and vasodilatory effect, strengthens the immune system, regenerates the vascular wall, maintains the elasticity of vessels, has aphrodisiac effects and ensures smooth functioning of genitalia.
Also it decreases the inflammation processes, neutralizes the effects of tobacco, alcohol, excessive processed food and meat intoxication and contains oils with anti-tumor effect like myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene.
To benefit from its therapeutic properties you may consume it fresh or as an infusion, decoction or fresh juice associated with other herbs and vegetables. For external use as a gargle, compresses or baths parsley helps heal wounds, insect bites, bruises, conjunctivitis and toothaches. It has a cosmetic use also as it improves skin pigmentation.
Parsley is wide spread in European, Middle Eastern, American and Brazilian cooking.
There are a lot of foods that pair well with this herb:
Meats: beef, pork, poultry, fish
Vegetables: carrots, eggplants, cucumbers, potatoes
It also can be use in herb combinations for:
- eggs (with basil, dill and garlic)
- fish (with french tarragon, basil, thyme, bay leaf)
- salad (with French tarragon, basil, lovage)
- tomato sauce (with oregano, bay leaf, basil, marjoram)
- herb butter (any combination of herbs)
You may enrich your soups, marinadas or dressings with fresh or dried parsley.
To benefit from its full flavor it is advisable to add it at the end of the cooking process. However, if the recipe requests it you may also cook it.
Either way, this herb will enhance the taste of any food with its delicious flavor.