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Parsley

( Originally Published 1933 )



PETROSELINUM SATIVUM, HOFFM.

Umbelliferae Biennial

This plant is called Petroselinum hortense, Hoffm. by Bailey, and elsewhere Petroselinum apium, L. The species is seldom grown, the moss-curled and fern-leaved varieties being more popular for garnishes.

Root. It has a white taproot which grows slenderer as it descends into the ground.

Stem. The stem is pithy, inside, smooth, with tiny raised lines along it, growing slenderer as it rises, which is as high as three feet when in flower.

Leaf. The leaves are large, measuring seven inches in length and about six inches across. They are smooth, bright green, whitish, or light green at the tips of the teeth, and are divided into three divisions which in turn are each divided into three more. The ultimate segments are wedge-shaped, ovate, and deeply cut. The stalks are hollow, and concave on the outside. The flowering stem does not appear until the second year, and the leaves on the flowering stem are very small, more like bracts, but are also divided, and with deeply cut margins. Parsley leaves when fresh smell of camphor, sharp, and a bit of turpentine. They taste, as every one knows, characteristically of green herbs with an undertone of something dark and not the least flowery.

Flower. The flowers are tiny, of a greenish-yellow with exserted stamens, come during the second summer in late June and early July, and are borne in umbels which are flat across the top. The large umbel is composed of many smaller ones on rays of unequal length. They smell very pleasantly, a little like Queen Anne's Lace.

Seed. The seeds are one-sixteenth of an inch long, rounded at the base, flat on two sides, with three prominent ribs, and their germinating power is said to last three years. They are strongly fragrant like the rest of the plant.

Variety. It seems to be the general opinion that the moss-curled kinds are the most attractive to grow for garnishes, although I prefer the fern-leaved to all others. In the breeding of parsleys a dark green color and a cut or curled texture seem to be desirable qualities. One moss-curled variety in which the divisions of the leaves overlap and curl up at the end came from Vilmorin's and was named persil nain très frisé, and its counterpart from Sutton's was called moss-curled. The leaves have a sharp, bitter, penetrating, and distinctive taste.

A double-curled dwarf from England sounds like the champion moss-curled, or Stumpp and Walter's exhibition curled parsley from the United States. The leaves are much cut and divided, the segments touching one another and giving the leaf the appearance of a humpy, frilly moss. The stalks are so short that the leaves almost lie upon the ground and form a low, thick tuft. It is fragrant as the others are.

The fern-leaved parsley has the leaves divided into a great number of small thread-like segments and these are not curled but spread out, and seems to me the most dainty and decorative of them all. This one is attractive when scattered through the salad or mixed into cheese balls. It tastes less sharp than the others.

The Hamburg parsley, or turnip-rooted parsley, called var. radicosum, is grown for its thick parsnip-like tapering roots, which are cooked to flavor soups.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

Parsley is one of the herbs long known to mankind. Theophrastus mentions it as a coronary plant. In Greek and Roman days it was worn in chaplets to absorb the fumes of wine and so delay inebriation. The Greeks also decorated their tombs with it. Calumella mentioned it and Pliny, who says it was made into wreaths for the victors of the Nemean Games, and "cooks correct the flavor of vinegar in their dishes with parsley, and our butlers em-ploy the same plant enclosed in sachets for removing the bad odor of wine." Ibn Baithar mentions its medicinal use and says it is good eaten with salad.

In the South the Negroes consider it unlucky to transplant parsley from an old home to a new one, as did the gardeners in olden times in England. In Pennsylvania the gardeners believe parsley should not be planted in the house for fear some one would die. A pregnant woman is supposed to have better success planting the seeds than any one else. Josselyn mentioned it as Apium petroselinum, and Bartram as parsley in 1814.

USES

Medicine. The dried ripe seed and also the root are in the United States Pharmacopoeia. The action of the root is diuretic. The seed is diuretic, febrifugal, emenagogue, and insecticidal. The herb is used externally as a vulnerary.

Cosmetics. The "Toilet of Flora" has a recipe to pre-vent baldness, which is as follows : "to powder your head with powdered parsley seed three nights every year and the hair will never fall off."

Food. The parsley leaves decorate almost every meat platter. It is minced and strewn over potatoes, carrots, or peas; and a sprig gives the taste to most soups, for it is almost always in with the "soup greens." Parsley soup is delicious.

CULTURE

The parsley makes a pretty edging for beds of vegetables and likes a rather moist soil. In cool climates the plants are generally started indoors to have them early because of their slow germination. The seed takes from a month to six weeks to germinate, and soaking it beforehand in tepid water for twenty-four hours hurries it a little. The plants are quite hardy but not of use the second year, for they seem to shoot into flowers unless the stems are cut back. It might be a good plan to feed the plants a little, if they are cut back too hard, but I have never found this necessary. Some bring parsley indoors to have it in the winter, but since it is obtainable at every grocery store throughout the land, this seems a bit foolish, especially when there are so many other plants one might prefer to have at the kitchen window.

Harvest. The leaves are cut as they are needed in the kitchen and seeds should be collected as soon as they are ripe. The roots may be dug at the end of the second season, washed, dried, and then stored.



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