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Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Nym.

Family : Umbelliferae

Other names : Wild parsley


The parsley plant (Petroselinum crispum) is a hardy biennial widely grown in gardens throughout the United States. Several varieties are used for garnishing and flavouring purposes, but the moss-curled (Curled Leaf variety) is the one most commonly grown. The coarse-leaved and turnip-rooted varieties also furnish both leaves and roots for flavouring purposes. Parsley was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks used it to crown athletes but also believed it was a symbol of death. The Romans used it as a food, often eaten with lettuce. Parsley was brought to England in the 16th century and followed the colonists to the new world.


Parsley is a biennial or short-lived perennial with rosette of rich green leaflets. The glossy, solid sharp-edged leafy stem bears flat-topped umbels of yellow-green flowers, followed by capsules of brown seeds in summer.


The seeds can be sown in spring either in cold frames or window boxes or directly in the garden. Better results can be expected if the plants are grown indoors or under glass and later transplanted to the garden, since they can be started earlier and become better established before hot weather begins. The seeds are soaked for 24 hours in warm water or boiling water is poured into seed drills immediately before sowing. If seeds are sown directly in the garden, they should be sown early, in drills at the rate of 15 to 20 to the foot, and the plants thinned to 6 to 8 inches apart in the row. In southern sections of the country parsley can be grown as a winter crop. Plants can be kept green under glass in a cold frame during the winter where freezing is not too severe. The plants bloom and produce seed the second season.

The green leaves can be harvested at any time during the season, as soon as sufficient growth has been made. The plants remain green in the garden until early in winter. Parsley leaves are generally used in the fresh state, but both leaves and roots retain their flavour when dried. The leaves should be dried, and the roots can be kept as other vegetable root crops or sliced and dried. The turnip-rooted varieties may be dug late in fall. The plants are cut and harvested, the stems removed, and the leaves are dried mechanically, causing a very dark green colour. The seeds are collected when capsules are ripe.

The volatile oil of parsley is very low (0.05%). This volatile oil can be extracted and sold as an essential oil.

Culinary use

Both seeds and dried roots of parsley are used as spices. It is used in a large variety of products, anywhere a green leafy piece is desired. It is usually used as a visual and does not contribute much flavour. The leaves may be used for flavour and for garnish in soups, vegetables, salads, meats, and poultry. The roots go well as a vegetable in soups.

Medicinal and other use

A tea made from leaves or roots is used to treat jaundice, coughs and menstrual problems, rheumatism, kidney stones and urinary infections. The juice expressed from them soothes conjunctivitis and eye inflammations. Seeds contain poisonous apiol and are sometimes infused to produce an external vermifuge.


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