Parsley is the common name for a bright green herb, which is extensively cultivated for its leaves.
It is native to the central Mediterranean region including Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years.
According to legend, parsley sprang up where the blood of the Greek hero Archemorus was spilled when he was eaten by serpents.
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.
Parsley is mentioned often throughout history, and not only for its culinary and medicinal properties. The early Greeks made crowns of parsley to bestow upon the winners of the Nemena and Isthmian sports games, in the same manner that bay wreaths honored the Olympians.
The name “parsley” comes from the Greek word πετροσέλινον (petroselinon), meaning rock celery, because it thrives on rocks and walls.
Parsley is a bright green, biennial plant in temperate climates, or an annual herb in subtropical and tropical areas.
Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves from 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 in) long with numerous 1 to 3 cm (0.4 to 1.2 in) leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.
In the second year, it grows a flowering stem to 75 cm (30 in) tall with sparser leaves and flat-topped 3 to 10 cm (1.2 to 4 in) diameter umbels with numerous 2 mm (0.08 in) diameter white, yellow or yellowish-green flowers.
The seeds are ovoid, 2–3 mm (0.08 to 0.012 in) long, with prominent style remnants at the apex. The plant normally dies after seed maturation.
Parsley is one of the world’s most popular herbs and is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking.
There are only 36 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of parsley.
Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C as well as a good source of vitamin A, folate and iron. Parsley’s volatile oil components include myristicin, limonene, eugenol and alpha-thujene. Its flavonoids include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol and luteolin.
The health benefits of parsley include preventing halitosis, fighting skin cancer, fighting diabetes, promoting bone health, boosting immune system, serving as a natural antibiotic, keeping the heart healthy and detoxifying the body. Other benefits includes fighting arthritis, whitening skin and giving clearer complexion and promoting healthy hair.
The deep green tender leaves are used as a garnish. It is used frequently as a garnish on potato dishes (boiled or mashed potatoes), on rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), soups, sauces, on fish, fried chicken, lamb, goose, and steaks, as well in meat or vegetable stews and salads.
Chimichurri is a South American sauce starring plenty of fresh parsley.
Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French cuisine.
Parsley is the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, and sometimes bread, soaked in vinegar.
Parsley contains less than 0.5 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is a pungent, oily, green liquid called apiol.
One variety, the Hamburg parsley is cultivated for its edible root. Its root parsley is very common in Central, Eastern, and Southern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles, and as ingredient for broth.
Parsley is sold in bunches and can be refrigerated for up to a week. Dried parsley is sold as a spice, but is not similar to the fresh parsley in flavor.