Parsley is a very popular herb, native to the southern Mediterranean region and popular in European and middle eastern cuisine.
There’s just one parsley species – Petroselinum crispum – but two main cultivated varieties: Curly Parsley and Continental Parsley (also known as Italian or flat-leafed parsley).
Of the two, curly parsley is more common in western cuisine. Used fresh, it has a subtle flavour that enhances many dishes, adding a little crunch and greenery to boiled potatoes, scrambled eggs – or any other savoury recipe that needs a little added zest. It looks great as a garnish – and has nutritional benefits too.
Don’t discard the stems of Parsley sprigs – they typically have a more flavour than the leaves and can also be chopped and added to whatever dish you’re preparing.
Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. It was probably first used more as a medicine than food.
The Romans used parsley to cure the ‘morning after the banquet feeling’; Pliny the Elder wrote that no salad or sauce should be prepared without it. Parsley is reputed to take the smell of garlic from breath after a garlicky meal – another reason for its long-standing popularity.
The parsley root has been used in infusions to break up kidney stones, and its juice can take the pain away after insect stings.
Parsley contains a substance which may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and there’s ongoing research into its potential as an anti-carcinogen. In any event, it’s a rich source of vitamin C.
Parsley has long been added to hair lotions to help rid the scalp of dandruff and promote hair growth. It’s also used to produce yellow and green dyes.