Spotlight on Parsley

Origins | Description | Qualities | History | Cultivation | Harvesting
Culinary Uses | Magical Uses | Other Uses | Quotes


Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
He once was a true love of mine.
Simon and Garfunkel



Latin name(s) - Petroselinum crispum 
aka - Giant curled; Moss curled; French; Italian; Plain-leaved; Flat-leaved; 
Family - Apiaceae
Parts used - Whole herb and seeds.
Purported actions - antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant (supposed aphrodisiac)
Methods of use - Infusion, leaves, expressed juice, seeds

Origins - Parsley was introduced to Britain from the meditteranean in the middle ages. It is found wild mainly in Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. A curly variety was first mentioned in AD42.

Description - Parsley is an aromatic herb growing to about a 1 ft (0.3 m) tall and twice as wide. It has bright green multi-compound curly or flat leaves. The leaflets are finely divided and held at the end of long stems and the whole plant has a rounded, mound-like shape.

If allowed to flower, it produces wide, flattened heads of tiny yellowy-green florets from June to August.

There are three varieties of parsley:

  • Crispum is the typical curly leaf parsley that looks like moss.
  • Neapolitanum includes the Italian or flat-leaf parsleys which have a slightly stronger flavour than the curly leaf types.
  • Tuberosum includes the Hamburg, turnip-rooted and German parsley which are grown for their parsnip like roots. The roots of this variety have a delicious nutty flavour, reminiscent of a combination of celery and parsley and the tops can be eaten too.

Attributed medicinal qualities - Parsley has been used as a medicinal herb since the Middle Ages, but there is little evidence to support its effectiveness other than its value as a natural vitamin supplement.

It is full of nutrients that help give it the name of one of nature's preventitive medicines. It has a relatively higher vitamin C content than an orange and it is high in vitamin B and potasium, has high iron, chlorophyll, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A.

Scientists have found a substance that inhibits the development of certain cancer cells. Some even think that it may yet be proven that parsley helps to prevent cancer.

It is renowned as a cleansing herb. It helps to reduce bruising and provides comfort for the stomach, ears, and eyes. (Mix the leaves with bread or meal to reduce heat and swelling in the eyes. Dilute the juice with wine to ease ear ache.)

It encourages the production of urine and menstruation - the seed is particularly good for this.

Gets rid of wind in the bowel and stomach.

Clears obstructions of liver and spleen - the root is particularly good here. The root is also purported to be gGood for breaking up kidney stones and aiding bladder infections. And helps aid the symptoms of jaundice, fainting and dropsy.

The leaves fried with butter, allowed to cool and applied to the breasts are said to help prevent mastitis.

It's also said to be effective against venomous bites. For insect bites you can squeeze parsley juice onto the sting for quick relief.

History -  The name comes from the Greek word petroselinon meaning rock celery, because it thrives on rocks and walls.

The Greeks used parsley in funerals and for wreaths long before it was used as a food.

The Romans used parsley at orgies to disguise the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Corpses were once sprinkled with parsley to deodorize them.

Today parsley oil, extracted from the leaves and stems, is used in commercial shampoos, soaps, perfumes and skin lotions.

Cultivation - Parsley is naturally biennial, but you should cultivate it as an annual. Cultivated parsley thrives in a fertille well drained soil in a sunny/partially shaded site.

Although the seed is not easy to germinate, sow seeds in Feb/Mar for summer/autumn and again in late July for winter/spring, though if left to run to seed, self-seeding is possible. Soaking the seed before sowing can assist germination.

Thin seedlings to 9" apart.

Protect in cold areas from late Oct.

It grows well in plant pots, but it needs a tall container as it has a long tap root.

The addition of side dressings of blood and bone throughout the growing season will keep the plants lush and healthy.

It is not generally bothered by pests

Harvesting, preparation and storage - The leaves can be used fresh, but also dried and powdered as a culinary flavouring in winter, when only a limited supply of fresh parsley is obtainable.

Culinary Uses - Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C. The most familiar use of the leaves is in their fresh state , finely-chopped, as a flavouring to sauces, soups, stuffings, rissoles, minces, etc., and also sprinkled over vegetables or salads.

Parsley tea can be drunk after meals, When making a tea, simply steep a few sprigs in very hot water for a few minutes, and enjoy.

Recipe - Parsley Sauce

Magical Uses - Parsley is generally regarded as an evil herb!

If you are in love, you should never cut parsley, for you will be cutting your luck as well!


Forget viagra, as seemingly parsley can provoke lust and fertility!

It can also be placed on plates to protect the food from contamination.

It has been used in baths for purification and for preventing misfortune.

Other Uses - In addition to the leaves, the stems can be dried and powdered, both as a culinary colouring and for dyeing purposes.

The high chlorophyll content of parsley makes it a natural breath freshener. (That's why it's often served with fish!)

For the skin, you can infuse parsley into a lotion and use it to help make freckles fade away.

Quotes -

“Take of the seed of Parsley, Fennel, Annise and Carraways, of each an ounce; of the roots of Parsley, Burnet, Saxifrage, and Carraways, of each an ounce and an half; let the seeds be bruised, and the roots washed and cut small; let them lie all night to steep in a bottle of white wine, and in the morning be boiled in a close earthen vessel until a third part or more be wasted; which being strained and cleared, take four ounces thereof morning and evening first and last, abstaining from drink after it for three hours. This opens obstructions of the liver and spleen, and expels the dropsy and jaundice by urine. “ Culpeper