Parsley is a hardy biennial herb of the natural order Umbellifer, native to Mediterranean shores. Throughout the world today it is unquestionably the most widely grown of all garden herbs and has the largest number of varieties. In moist, moderately cool climates, it may be found wild as a weed, but nowhere has it become a pest.
History of Parsley
The writings of the old herbalists of the 15th century show that in their times it had already developed several well-defined forms and numerous varieties, always a sure sign that a plant is popular.
Parsley has been cultivated for at least 2,000 years. The specific name is derived from the Greek word for the habitat of the plant, which naturally grows among rocks.
Description of Parsley
Here are a few interesting facts about parsley:
- Parsley develops only a rosette of leaves during the first year.
- During the second season the erect, branched, channeled parsley flower stems rise two feet high and at their extremities bear umbels of little greenish flowers.
- Parsley has dark green leaves with long stalks and divides two or three times into ovate, wedge-shaped segments.
- The fruits are light brown or gray, convex on one side and flat on the other two, the convex side marked with fine ribs.
Parsley is so easily grown that no garden, or household, should be without this useful culinary herb. Parsley will thrive in any ordinary soil and will do well in a window box with only a moderate amount of light. Gardeners often grow it beneath benches in greenhouses, where it gets only small amounts of light.
Here are a few guidelines and notes about cultivating and growing parsley.
- For window culture, all that is needed is a box filled with rich soil. The roots may be dug in the fall and planted in the box. A sunny window is best, but any window will do.
- If protected from frost, the plants will yield all winter. They may be easily transplanted in cold frames.
- In the home garden, parsley may be sown as an edging for flower beds and borders. For such purpose it is best to sow the seed thickly during late October or November. Sown at that time, the plants may be expected to appear earlier than if spring sown and will remain green not only all the growing season but well into winter.
- It is essential that parsley be sown very early in order to germinate at all. If sown late, it may possibly not get enough moisture to sprout.
- Parsley seed is very slow in germinating, often requiring four to six weeks unless soaked before sowing.
- Parsley seeds retain their germinating power for three years. Older seed germinates more freely than freshly gathered seed.
- Parsley seed ripens very irregularly, some umbels being ready to cut from one to three weeks earlier than others.
Cooking with Parsley
Parsley is one of the most useful herbs in the kitchen. It is not just a garnish as many think:
- In American cookery, parsley has many uses but is most extensively used as a garnish.
- In English cookery, the leaves are more extensively used for seasoning fricassees and dressings for mild meats, such as chicken and veal.
- In many countries the green leaves are mixed with salads to add flavor.
- Often the minced green leaves are mixed with other vegetables just before being served. A liberal dusting of finely minced parsley can be added to peeled, boiled potatoes, immediately after draining. This vegetable will seem like a new dish of unusual delicacy! The potatoes may be either served whole or mashed with a little butter, milk and pepper.
- The Germans use both roots and tops for cooking: the parsley roots considered a boiled vegetable, the parsley tops a pot herb.
Kains, M.G. (1912). Culinary Herbs: Their Cultivation, Harvesting, Curing and Uses. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from the Project Gutenberg Web site: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21414/21414-h/21414-h.htm#Page_59.