Parsley – A Herb That Is Also Rich In Nutrients?

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) belongs to the Apiaceae family, also known as the carrot family. It’s native to the central and eastern Mediterranean regions but has naturalized in Europe as well. It is widely cultivated as an herb in subtropical and tropical areas, used for its culinary and medicinal properties. This article shows a detailed description of what the parsley plant is and its common uses.

Parsley is a biennial plant; it is short-lived and usually takes two growing seasons to complete its whole life cycle. It’s effortless to grow, and you can even grow it in your home garden, and because it’s a leafy herb that is entirely edible from root to seed, you get an excellent ingredient for your cooking.

Parsley has a very distinct taste that adds flavor to the dish when you add it as a spice to garnish your meal. It also has a powerful smell that helps you distinguish it from other herbs in the carrot family. It’s a prevalent herb, and I can even argue that it’s consumed in almost every house worldwide. This is also why parsley is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine.

Common NameParsley
Botanical NamePetroselinum Crispum
Plant TypeBiennial Herb
Size (Fully Grown)12 -18 Inches (30 – 46 cm) Tall, And 9 – 12 Inches (23 – 30 cm) Wide
Sun ExposureFull Sun Or Partial Shade
Soil TypeLoamy Soil With Good Drainage
Soil pHFrom 6.0 To 7.0
Flower ColorWhitish-yellow
U.S. Hardiness Zones4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9
Native AreaCentral And Eastern Mediterranean Region

How Many Types Of Parsley Are There?

Parsley has different varieties that are biennials but vary by the region they grow in. All the different types differ in their shape, properties, uses, and taste.

  1. Italian
  2. Flat-leaf
  3. Hamburg
  4. Curled Leaf
  5. Japanese Mitsuba

Where Does Parsley Originally Come From?

The word “parsley” is a merger of an old English word “petersilie,” and the old French word “peresil,” both derived from the Latin word “Petroselinum,” “rock-celery.” It’s a native plant in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean region, but with time it also naturalized throughout Europe.

We have grown parsley for more than 2,000 years, but before its use as an ingredient in our dishes, it was used medicinally, and back in the day, it was also believed that chewing the leaves at the end of the meal freshens your breath. Even the Romans introduced the herb during their colonial days in Europe. And after that, the early immigrants who traveled to America introduced it as a culinary herb.

What Does Parsley Look Like?

The plant can grow even 2 feet (about 61 cm) high and is a common herb because it has proven to be adaptable to all climates. The parsley leaves are green in color, which it produces only once in the first year of its growth.

There are two basic types: curly parsley has creased or wrinkled leaves and is perhaps the most familiar parsley to most of us. Italian parsley, on the other hand, is flat, and its leaves are not wrinkled. The bright green leaves have a sharp, peppery taste. And what you might find interesting is that the stems carry more flavor than the leaves, so don’t throw them into the biowaste container when you’re cooking!

The plant produces flowers in the second year; only the flowers are yellow, and sometimes they range from yellowish-green to yellowish-white flowers. Parsley also attracts several wildlife species, and some swallowtail butterflies use the plant as a host plant for their larvae. Birds such as the goldfinch like to eat the seeds of this magnificent herb. Bees and other nectar-feeding insects also like to visit the flowers.

Where Does Parsley Grow Best?

Parsley is a bright green herb grown in temperate climates, usually during mid-summer. It’s a biennial plant, so in the first year, it forms a tripinnate of rosette leaves around 10–25 cm long and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.

The second-year, the plant grows a flowering stem to 75 cm tall with sparser leaves and flat-topped. It produces petite whitish-yellow to yellowish-green flowers that grow in lacy flat-topped clusters in the classic umbel shape. The plant naturally dies after seed maturation, but here is the good news, you can even grow it in pots! But, I want to remind you that parsley has a taproot that can get a bit long, and a mature plant can even reach a height of 2 feet (about 61 cm), so you are going to need a large pot.

Temperature And Humidity

Parsley is an all year long plant; it can grow well in summer and winter if you provide it favorable growing conditions. You can harvest it both in fall and spring, and get the herbs by winter or summer. But, the plant may need some winter protection. Covering the plants in the cold season will protect them from wind damage.

Optimal Soil For Parsley

Since we grow the plant for its leaves, it likes soil rich in organic matter, and it grows best in soil that is moist and drains well. Your growth spot temperature should be somewhere between 72 to 86°F (about 22 to 30°C), and the pH of the soil should range somewhere in the neutral range of 6.0 – 7.0.

Although it’s almost impossible to get both optimal soil and the right amount of sunlight in some parts of the world, it can still thrive in your garden if the plant gets even one of the two. I want to remind you that parsley requires a lot of space, and it’s a good practice not to let separate plants touch another.

The Amount Of Sunlight

Parsley varies when it comes to light because most varieties need a full sun growing environment, and others don’t, but as a general rule, it grows best in partial shade.

How Much Water?

Parsley needs watering about 2-3 times per week. If it runs out of water, the plant will let you know it by wilting.

Do You Need To Fertilize Parsley?

Parsley will grow in moist, fertile soil. But, if necessary, you can side-dress it with compost or with a balanced fertilizer once or twice during the growing period.

Propagation

Parsley can be propagated both through cuttings and seeds. You can sow the seeds in late spring and again in late summer when you want a permanent supply. The herb takes about a month or two to sprout as the seeds are slow to germinate. You can even spread high-quality compost along the row before covering the seeds to promote germination.

It’s vital to keep parsley moist and feed them occasionally with liquid fertilizer. In late fall, you could even put them in pots and bring them inside. Doing this means that you’d get fresh leaves throughout the winter as well. But if you find yourself in a situation where you notice that your plant has died, I advise you to buy nursery plants in the spring.

You can also harvest the herb by cutting the stems an inch or two (2,5 to 5 cm) above the ground and dry them quickly on paper. When the fresh parsley wilts, then clip off an inch (2,5 cm) of the lower stems and place them in a cold water glass. Cover the leaves loosely with plastic bags, and they will soon perk up. Wash the herbs to remove the excess moisture, then warp them in a damp paper towel and seal in a plastic bag and keep them in your fridge for up to a week.

Shall I Garnish Your Dish With Parsley?
© New Africa – stock.adobe.com

What Are The Most Common Uses For Parsley?

It is a beneficial and healthy herb as it is rich in both vitamins and antioxidants. It has a lot of vitamins C and A, fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and iron. It also has a significant amount of protein.

One widespread use for it is to use it for tea infusion, but fresh parsley is still mostly used in cuisines and meals. Fresh and dried parsley is also used in different spices to bring out the flavor in dishes. You might be surprised to know that it also possesses medical properties, so it is used in homeopathic medicines. But before you use parsley for any other purpose than cooking, always ask your healthcare professional for help!

The Many Benefits

Besides many purposes and uses, parsley is also extremely healthy. Below we have only a few of the many benefits of this fantastic plant.

  • Parsley contains many powerful antioxidants that can benefit your health.
  • It’s packed with vitamin K that strengthens your bones. Parsley also encompasses compounds that may have anticancer effects and carries carotenoids that help protect your eyes and promote healthy vision.
  • Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin B that may improve heart health.
  • The herb may also have antibacterial benefits when used as an extract in medicines.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Parsley?

As we know, parsley is an excellent herb that adds flavor to many dishes, but be sure to use it while it’s still fresh because cooking can evaporate the nutrients and taste of this magnificent herb. While the plant is rich in many important nutrients, like vitamins A, C, and K, it’s also an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Sounds great, right!

And that’s not all! It is also an excellent plant to eat if you experience some digestive disorders, such as constipation. But is the plant safe for everyone? For example, are you pregnant, or do you have some common medical condition? Let’s find out!

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

As with all foods, average food amounts are entirely okay, but pregnant (and breastfeeding) women should avoid more massive medicinal consumption of parsley because it’s been used to start the menstrual flow and even abortion.

Children

Parsley has many health benefits, and it’s good to eat it no matter what age your child is. But I advise you to ask a pediatrician before you feed it to your baby. 

People With Allergies

I advised you to ask a pediatrician before giving parsley to your baby and older children because there are known allergies, even though the plant seems to be entirely safe for most adults. But, if you or your child is already allergic to celery, fennel, or carrots, I would be cautious because allergic skin reactions may be possible!

People With Diabetes

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research about the usefulness of parsley for diabetes treatment. But, if you consider using it to treat your diabetes, I recommend speaking with your doctor first.

Although, remember that parsley is rich in antioxidants and contains many essential vitamins, so it can’t be bad for your health like sugar-sweetened beverages.

Pets

Small amounts of parsley are entirely safe for your pets, so no need to worry. But The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, tells us that the parsley plant is toxic to both cats and dogs, so if I were you, I would play it safe and not give it to your pet at all.

Featured image credit – © pilipphoto – stock.adobe.com

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