All About Parsley: The Lonely, Unappreciated Herb

Parsley
Parsley

"I Don't Get No Respect"

Pity the poor parsley plant . The Rodney Dangerfield of herbs. Always pushed to the edge of the plate with the uneaten peas—just a frilly decoration, a charming splash of color.

But without it how could we accent buttered new potatoes, create a mixed-herb pesto, or prepare the perfect chimichurri?

Without parsley…we would be lost. And that is why it is the most familiar and most-used herb in America. However, parsley is not American, nor is it an innovative cooking ingredient.

Roman revelers were known to wear a few sprigs of parsley to prevent intoxication, and they chewed parsley to hide the alcohol on their breath when they got drunk anyway.

But I Do Have a Long History

The ancient Greeks believed that parsley was sacred and used it to adorn not only their victorious athletes, but also the tombs of the dead. It is possible that the Israelites used parsley as one of the bitter herbs in their Passover meal. Pliny the Elder (23-78 AD) is thought to have said that “not a salad or sauce should be presented without it”. The Romans used it as well, and it is believed that parsley traveled with them to Britain where it decorated Elizabethan gardens years later.

...Surrounded in Superstition

If you have ever tried to grow parsley, you know that it is temperamental, to say the least. An old English saying states:

"parsley seed goes seven times to the Devil and back before it germinates",

One could conclude, therefore, that the seeds that finally germinate have been rejected by Satan. Ironically, at Roman weddings, wreaths of parsley were given to protect against demons. Perhaps their thinking was that if the parsley had grown here on earth the Devil had found it unacceptable, and so it would be free of evil spirits.

Another myth was that the seeds should be sown only on Good Friday. Some claimed that only witches could successfully cultivate the herb. Even today there are those who say that transplating parsley from one home to another will bring bad luck.

Parsley

  • Botanical Name – Petroselinum crispumim
  • Plant Type – Herb
  • Sun Exposure – Full sun, part sun
  • Soil Type – Loamy
  • Description -- Parsley is a biennial plant with bright green, featherlike leaves in the Apiaceae* family

(* other plants in this family include anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander (cilantro), cumin, dill, fennel, and parsnip).

What's In A Name?

The etymology of the name “parsley” is confusing, and rather lengthy. Some say it is a combination of the Old English petersilie and the Old French peresil—and that both of these are derived from the Latin petrosilium, which is taken from the Greek petroselinon from petros "rock, stone" + selinon "celery".

Yes, parsley is related to the celery plant--and carrots and parsnips as well. In addition to its mythical qualities, it also has a long history of medicinal and culinary uses. Parsley has been used as an insect repellent, as a poultice for cuts and sores, as an aphrodisiac, and even a cure for baldness.

How to Successfully Grow This Fussy Beast

I must confess that I have not had much, if any, success in sowing parsley from seed. My best and most prolific parsley plants have been purchased as seedlings. However, I have also found that if I allow those seedlings to grow and prosper and ultimately go to seed, little parsley babies will appear the following year. And, the cycle goes on and on and on.

If you are determined to try to sow (and grow) parsley from seed, here is a link that provides clear instructions:

Flat leaf and curly parsley
Flat leaf and curly parsley | Source

The Cousins

There are two varieties of parsley. The curly or "common" parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is most often used in the United States. Flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) appears more often in Mediterranean cooking.

Can they be used interchangeably? I will answer that with a tentative yes. Of course curly parsley has more texture. Some people think it is bitter; I find that the taste varies from plant to plant. Flat leave parsley has a more robust flavor and lends itself well to sauces and stews.

The Recipes

At the introduction of this hub I made reference to a recipe with buttered new potatoes. This is about as easy as it gets.

parsley potatoes
parsley potatoes | Source

Parsley Potatoes

Prep Time: 5 minutes Ready In: 30 minutes Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds new (white, red, or Yukon gold) potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add 1 inch of water to large saucepan with lid. Cover and heat to boiling over high heat. Add potatoes. Cover and heat to boiling, reduce heat. Cook covered 20 to 25 minutes or until tender; drain and return to pan.
  2. Drizzle butter over potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir gently to coat potatoes.

parsley pesto
parsley pesto | Source

Mixed Herb Pesto

Prep Time: 5 minutes Ready In: 5 minutes Yields: about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 14 cup pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 2 tightly packed cups small basil leaves
  • 1 tightly packed cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp. fresh herb leaves (oregano, marjoram, chives, or sage)
  • 12 cup grated pecorino sardo or parmigiano-reggiano
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Combine nuts, garlic, salt, basil, and parsley leaves in bowl of food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cheese and olive oil. Pulse until smooth and well-blended.


tabbouleh salad
tabbouleh salad | Source

Tabbouleh Salad

Prep time: 2 hours 15 min Ready in: 2 hours 15 min Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

Instructions

  1. Combine bulgur wheat and boiling water in large mixing bowl. Let stand for 15-20 minutes, or until all water us absorbed.
  2. Stir in the salt, lemon juice, garlic, scallions, and olive oil. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate 2-3 hours.
  3. Just before serving stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

And you can add these ingredients

Want to add a bit more crunch, color, flavor, or protein? Here are some suggestions:

  • 1/2 cup olives (black, Kalamata, or mixed)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (the white meat from a rotisserie chicken would be great here)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (in place of or in addition to the cucumber)
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds would be a good choice)

© 2015 Carb Diva

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Comments 25 comments

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Might pay if you have it in pots to move the plant indoors (like a garage but with sunlight) as I forgot until afterwards that not everywhere is blessed with mild winters!

Just an idea

Lawrence


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Lawrence - I will try again with over-wintering parsley. In the past we have typically had one or two below-freezing periods that would blacken and kill just about any annual that dared raise its little head. However, it seems that our weather cycle has changed. Last winter was unusually mild. We had had only 1/4 inch of rainfall since May--and that is VERY unusual for western Washington. We have the reputation of having more rain than anywhere else.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

We've always got parsley in the garden. Here's a tip, if you harvest the parsley before it goes to seed the plant will keep producing (one of our plants has been in the garden for about three years).

The secret is harvesting before going to seed.

Awesome hub

Lawrence


Payal N Naik profile image

Payal N Naik 17 months ago from Mumbai

Ya knowing the health benefits,I always try to do the garnishing with parsley.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Payal - I am glad that you like parsley. It has many health benefits.


Payal N Naik profile image

Payal N Naik 17 months ago from Mumbai

Hi, ya we are able to grow it in mumbai but it takes 2-3weeks.


Payal N Naik profile image

Payal N Naik 17 months ago from Mumbai

Hi, yes we are able to grow but it takes 3-4weeks to grow. I have been using parsley for weight loss and it has really worked well for me.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Thank you Payal - Are you able to grow parsley in Mumbai?


Payal N Naik profile image

Payal N Naik 17 months ago from Mumbai

Great info about the herb.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Jackie - Today it is 90 degrees F where I live. This is most unusual for us, so we are dying! Rather than heat up the kitchen, I made the tabbouleh salad for dinner tonight. I'm glad you liked the story.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 17 months ago from The Beautiful South

I will tuck your recipes away and try them. Interesting little devil story too. Great fun and useful article! ^+


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Nell - Thank you so much. I am glad that you enjoyed my hub. By the way I just hopped over to your page and read a few of your hubs. I love your style!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 17 months ago from England

Hi, I used to grow it on my balcony, and always use it as stuffing, but never for anything else, great read and I learned something new!


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Rachel - Lucky you for having a thriving parsley patch. I will follow your advice. Thanks.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Eric - So glad I could be of service. Would love to know which recipe you chose and how it turned out for you.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Flourish - Yes, parsley is good for freshening the breath. The Romans figured that one out (LOL).


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Bill, you have an amazing little farm. Would love to know how you and Bev use your parsley.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

Buildreps - I love tabbouleh salad, especially in the summer when the weather is so unbearably hot. Thank you for stopping by.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 17 months ago Author

RTalloni - thank you for stopping by. Yes, I find that once you get it going, parsley will be a faithful companion for years to come.


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 17 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Hi Carb Diva, I have been growing flat leaf Italian parsley for years now. I never had any trouble growing it. The more you cut it to use it, the more it grows back. I don't know much about different kinds of dirt, though. That might have something to do with it. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings to you.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I love great timing. I was bemoaning our regular green leafy nutritional choices for cooking --- and here is your article. Parsley it is and a new treat will be with dinner tonight. Thank you


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 17 months ago from USA

I'm a failed gardener (mixed success at best), but thankfully I can grow this one. Be also heard that it is useful for cueing, as a breath freshener or neutralizer.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

I'm not the world's greatest gardener but I can grow parsley....and I love it...the best of both worlds. :)


Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 17 months ago from Europe

Great info about this herb. Very nice recipe for making tabbouleh salad.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 17 months ago from the short journey

Neat read and thanks for the info. In the past I've also had good experience with parley reseeding itself.

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