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Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Fuss 1866
pronounced: pet-roh-sell-EE-num KRISS-pum
(Apiaceae – the celery family)
common names: Parsley, Curly Parsley
Petroselinum is from two Greek words, πετρα (petra), a rock, and σελινον (selinon) celery – ‘rock celery’ (parsley is a relative of celery); both of these words were also used in Latin, as direct borrowings from the Greek, although selinon was used by the Romans for parsley rather than celery. Crispum is from the Latin crispus, curled.
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. While it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, parsley was used medicinally before being used as a food. This is a bright green biennial herb, used for its leaf in much the same way as coriander (which is also known as Chinese parsley), although parsley is perceived to have a milder flavour. There are two forms of parsley used as a culinary herb: curly leaf (Petroselinum crispum) and Italian, or flat leaf (Petroselinum neapolitanum). The curly leaf is the one we find used as a garnish here in Australia. Chopped parsley is often sprinkled on top of potato dishes (french fries, boiled buttered potatoes or mashed potatoes), rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), with fish, fried chicken, steaks and stews like beef bourguignon, goulash or chicken paprika. In southern and central Europe, parsley is part of the bouquet garni, a bundle of fresh herbs used to flavour stocks, soups and sauces. Freshly chopped parsley is used as a topping for soups, particularly chicken soup. It is probably the most used herb in Spanish cuisine. It is also an ingredient of the persillade much loved by French cooks, and the Italians use it in gremolata.
Parsley is widely used as a companion plant in gardens. It attracts certain predatory insects to the garden: for instance, its nectar attracts the wasps that kill tomato hornworms. The strong scent of parsley leaves appears to mingle with the scent of tomato plants and confuses the search algorithm of the tomato moth.
All too often, the sprigs of parsley used in restaurants as a garnish are left uneaten on the side of the plate. Parsley has not only a vibrant taste and a high nutritional value, but also medicinal properties. So many claims are made for its effectiveness in preventing all sorts of illnesses that there is not space to go into them here. Suffice it to say that it is rich in the elements that provide vitamins A and C, and in folic acid, one of the B vitamins. An added bonus, if the sprig of parsley is eaten at the end of the meal, it will cleanse the palate and the breath!
There is a variety of curly parsley, known as Turnip-rooted or Hamburg parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum) that produces a root resembling a carrot in both shape and appearance. The beige-coloured roots have a celery flavour, and the stems and leaves can be used in the same way as those of regular parsley. It will grow anywhere in Australia, preferring a sunny, open position in well-drained, moist soil.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 2nd February 2018