Member of the family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae
Parsley is a herb well-known to everybody. Today it is one of the most widely grown herbs. It is very valuable as a nutritional supplement as the leaves have large amounts of carotene which is an excellent source of pro-vitamin A.
Parsley also is a good source of vitamins B and C. It has seven times the amount of vitamin A as carrots, four times compared to spinach, and additionally it is full of minerals. Parsley appears to enhance the body’s absorption of manganese, which is important to help build bone.
Parsley is a hardy biennial herb which flowers the second year. It is a native to the Mediterranean region (Iran, southern Italy, Algeria and Tunisia) and is known to have been cultivated for at least 2000 years.
The Greek word petros which means stone is the origin of the name due to the habitat – it grows among rocks, and therefore the old name Petrosili. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first known use of the form parsley was in William Langland’s 1376 work Piers Plowman, where he refers to persely. “Selinon” was the Greek word for parsley in ancient history.
Parsley is widely used as a companion plant in gardens. Like many other members of the carrot family (umbellifers), it attracts predatory insects, including wasps and predatory flies to gardens, which then tend to protect plants nearby.
Parsley is easily grown. It will thrive in any ordinary soil.
The seeds often need 7-8 weeks to germinate. It is advised to soak the seeds a full day in tepid water prior to sowing, and to sow very early in spring to ensure the needed germinating time. Parsley also needs a lot of water during this time.
If protected from frost, the plants will yield all winter.
For window culture, all that is needed is a box filled with rich soil. A sunny window is best, but any window will do.
As parsley is grown for its leaves, it can scarcely be over fertilized. Once parsley is mature, picking the outer leaves first guarantees that the plant will keep growing.
In old herbals from the 15th century we can read that parsley already had been developed into several well-defined forms and numerous varieties.
There are four well-defined groups of parsley varieties; common or plain, curled or moss-leaved, fern-leaved, and Hamburg. Hamburg is the turnip-rooted or large-rooted parsley which is used as a vegetable, especially in Europe.
The two main groups of parsley used as herbs are curly leaf parsley (P. crispum Crispum Group; syn. P. crispum var. crispum) and Italian, or flat leaf (P. crispum Neapolitanum Group; syn. P. crispum var. neapolitanum).
Many people say that when chewed, parsley can freshen bad breath, especially from eating garlic.