Next in our history of spice series we will be exploring the history of parsley.
Common Name: Parsley
Latin/Scientific Name: Petroselinum crispum
Other Names: Common Parsley, Garden Parsley, German parsley, Hamburg, Parsley Fruit, Parsley Root, Rock Parsley.
Parsley is an herb with bright green curly or flat leaves. When allowed to flower, it produces beautiful, tiny yellow and green flowers from June to August.
There are three varieties of parsley:
- Crispum is the typical parsley. It has curly leaves and looks like moss.
- Neapolitanum is the typical Italian parsley. This parsley has a stronger flavor than crispum and has flat leaves.
- Tuberosum includes the Hamburg, German parsleys which are grown for the nutty flavor of their roots. This is a relatively new species, having only been developed within the past two hundred years. It has been slowly gaining in popularity.
These varieties are not to be mistaken with Fools Parsley, Aethusa cynapium. This plant can be mistaken for parsley. Fools parsley contains poisonous alkaloids and even a small amount can lead to serious poisoning, and a larger amount can be fatal.
The History of Parsley
The name “parsley” comes from the Greek word petroselinon, meaning rock celery, because it thrives on rocks and walls.
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. Some historians credit Charles the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor, for making this herb so popular because he had it gown all over his property.
In mythology, parsley was believed to have sprung from the Greek hero, Archemorous, the forerunner of death. According to legend, the plant first sprouted in the blood of Archemorus. This myth caused the ancient Greeks to hold that parsley was sacred and also evil. Warriors fed parsley leaves to their horses to give them strength. The Greeks placed it on winning athletes and also on the tombs of the dead. The expression De’eis thai selinon, “to need only parsley,” was a euphemistic expression equivalent to “one foot in the grave.” Throughout time parsley was believed to have many unusual and magical uses. For example, it was once believed that this herb was evil and if you are in love, you should never cut parsley, or it would cut and ruin your love.
Parsley was originally the variety with flat leaves, but when the curly-leafed variety was found and began gaining in popularity, parsley began to be used more frequently.
Parsley is a great herb for adding flavor to tomato dishes, baked potatoes, fish dishes, vegetable dishes and egg dishes. This herb works especially well with cucumbers, dried beans, beef, chicken, lemon, garlic, mushrooms, peppers, and squash. Recipes for non-sweet soups, shellfish, meat and fowl often call for parsley in the recipe. This herb blends well with other seasonings and stands alone.
Make sure to check back often for the next in our History of Spice series.