Parsley, Herb of Heroes Parsley, Herb of Heroes
Parsley has a long, romantic history, and was revered by ancient Greeks, who didn't eat it because it was sacred to them. Parsley was mentioned by the Romans as early as the fourth century BC. Pliny wrote in the first century AD that there would not be a salad or sauce served without parsley. Although many people use the dried herb, it is best when fresh and snipped right out of the garden. Here, we will discuss parsley - its uses, both medicinal and culinary, how it is grown, and the rich history of parsley.
A History of Parsley
Parsley is the most mentioned herb in the world. The Greek thought that parsley was the blood of their hero Archemorus. The Greeks would crown winners of major sporting events with wreaths of parsley.
The Romans used parsley for a garnish and flavoring. They would place parsley on their tables and hang it around their necks to ward off fumes. Medieval Europeans believed that you could kill someone by plucking a sprig and invoking that person's name at the same time. It came to America in the 17th century, and is widely spread today. It is used mostly as a culinary herb. Parsley is hard to process, because it takes 12 pounds of fresh parsley to make one pound of dried. People still tend to use the dried herb instead of fresh.
Ounce for ounce, parsley contains more essential vitamins than any other herb. It contains more vitamin C than an orange by volume. It contains vitamins A, B, calcium and iron. Chinese and German herbologists recommend parsley as an aid to lowering high blood pressure. Parsley tea is used as an enema. Cherokee Indians used parsley to strengthen the bladder. Parsley is used to stimulate the pelvic and uterine area, and to bring on menstruation. In the United States, some doctors will prescribe parsley tea for young female patients with bladder problems. Parsley is allegedly able to control diuresis, which is the increased production of urine by the kidney. If crushed and rubbed on the skin, parsley helps relieve the itching of mosquito bites.
There are health risks in the use of parsley as a medicinal herb. It should never be consumed as a medicine by pregnant women. Used as an oil, leaf, seed or root, it can lead to uterine stimulation and premature birth. Parsley is high in oxalic acid, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones. Parsley in oil form contains furanocoumarins and psoralens which can lead to extreme photosensitivity if used orally.
How To Cultivate Parsley
Sow in the spring when ground temperature is at least 50 degrees. Parsley is a biennial, and is usually treated as an annual because it goes to seed in the second year. There are two varieties - flat leaf and curly. Plant parsley seed in rows 12 to 16 inches apart. Six plants are enough to supply the average family plus leave some left over to dry or freeze. The seed takes a very long time to germinate. It can be helped along by covering the seed with a moisture retaining material and watered frequently. Try pouring boiling water over the row before covering to speed up germination.
Parsley likes a moderately rich and well drained soil. It does best in a soil with a pH of 6.0. It needs full sun but will grow well in partial shade. Keep parsley well weeded and don't let it dry out. When it flowers, trim the flowers back to keep the plant productive. Allow a few plants to go to seed late in summer so that you have seed for the next growing season.
Harvesting and Storage
Cut parsley for use in the kitchen throughout the growing season. Before it flowers, cut for drying. Dry the parsley well in shade, and use an oven or microwave to finish the drying process. When dry, crush by hand and store in airtight containers. Flat leaf Italian parsley has a stronger taste and works best for drying.
A Parsley Recipe
This recipe is for a parsley dressing that goes well with breads.
Parsley, lemon and garlic dressing
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 TBS finely chopped fresh parsley
- 6 TBS fresh bread crumbs
- 6 TBS softened butter
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
Make a smooth paste of the garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, butter and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Good for a meat dressing, or as a spread on bread to toast. Can be used in place of regular butter.
Parsley is an herb that is versatile, makes a good garnish and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Try growing parsley today, even if you have to plant in containers on the windowsill.