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Parsley (Petroselunum crispum, P. Hortense, P. Sativum)

Parsley is most identifiable as a garnish that you find on your plate but it has had a place among prized herbs for many generations. It is a herb that is essential in my herb garden and flavors most of my family's dishes.

Parsley's History

Parsley is a plant that grows in early spring and as such is used in the Jewish passover ritual of "Sedar". Long ago Greeks connected this plant with death and thought soldiers who had contact with it before battle would surely die. It was often planted on Greek graves. As time went by they used it to remember fallen heroes and it was used in crowns to adorn athletic heroes. When this change happened it quickly became recognized as a symbol of strength. The Romans are the ones who recognized it's breath freshening qualities and started the tradition of including it on a plate as a after meal breath freshener.

The Healing book of Herbs by Michael Castleman states that in America from 1850 to 1926 the US Pharmacopeia had it listed as a laxative, diuretic for kidney problems and fluid accumulation due to congestive heart failure and a quinine substitute for malaria.

Identifying The Plant

It is important to note that this plant is not recommended for wild foraging because it closely resembles hemlock which is very poisonous. This includes water hemlock, poison parsley and fools parsley. Also these poisonous varieties can crossbreed with non-poisonous varieties making even the safer varieties dangerous.

The parsley plant itself grows to 12 feet it's first year and 3 feet its second year when it flowers. It is suggested that the leaves should be harvested in the first year due to the flowering in the second but I have found that if you keep it very trimmed you can keep it alive and productive for a number of years. The leaves are delicately cut and curled inward. They have toothed margins and are a very bright green. They are rich in Vitamin A, B, C, iron, calcium, magnesium and chlorophyll. The seeds are very tiny, brownish-gray and sickle shaped. The stems are stiff-semicircular posts that branch off at the ends into the leaf bundles. They are not as green as the leaves but have more parsley flavor. The roots are thin, yellowish-brown taproots with fine hairs and even more parsley flavor.

Growing Tip

Parsley is easy to grow. Just plant a few seeds and away you go. Keep it trim and it produces for a long time. When we used to live in Michigan my mother would keep it alive all winter by covering it with a leaf blanket to protect it from the harsh weather and snow. It used to drive my grandmother crazy how mom could keep it alive and productive through the winter.

Preserving Parsley

When I harvest my parsley I usually hang bundles of the leaves in a dark area to dry. Then I just break them into a powder over a piece of paper. Once broken apart I curl the paper into a funnel and put the dried leaves into a shaker. Preserve store bought fresh parsley in this same manner and you won't be tossing out the unused leaves. Alternately you can also just put the bundle into a small paper bag, wait for them to dry, smash it up in the bag, pick out the stems and pour your leaves from the bag into a shaker.

The leaves can also be frozen for future use. The stems can be dried and used the same way as the leaves or you can blanch them and freeze them.


As a breath freshener simply eat a few sprigs: leaves and stems.

Parsley essential oil* (found mostly in the seeds) contains apiol and myristicin which have a mild laxative and significant diuretic effect. Use an infusion* (up to 3 cups per day) or a tincture* (1/2 to 1 teaspoon 3 times per day) can be used as a way to control high blood pressure but you should always consult your doctor and when using this you should increase potassium amounts as diuretics rob your body of it. This dosage is also recommended for congestive heart failure but again consult your doctor before adding it to your medicinal plan.

Pregnant ladies should only have parsley as a culinary product as increased amounts can stimulate uterine activity and induce labor. Non-pregnant ladies may find it a welcome relief to that "bloated" feeling you get during PMS.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests in a publication that parsley may inhibit the secretion of histamines and reduce allergy reactions.

*Tincture - Process of steeping the dried or fresh herbs in a 25% mixture of alcohol and water. Can be stored for up to two years. *Infusion - 2 teaspoons of dried leaves or roots or 1 teaspoon of bruised seeds to one cup of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes. Should be made fresh for each dose. *Essential Oil - most essential oils can be purchased at a natural food store. To make your own, put 250g of dried herbs or 750g of fresh herbs into 500ml of sunflower oil into a bowl. Place this bowl over a pot of boiling water for about three hours. Then pour into jelly bag or cheesecloth fitted to a wine press and strain mixture into a container. Pour this mixture into a clean, airtight storage bottle.

Attention Use At Your Own Risk

I am not medically trained in anyway. I am simply a student. I read and experiment with ancient herbal techniques. I am simply passing on the knowledge I have gained from studding many texts on the subject and I am in no way responsible for anything you do with this information. For a listing on the books that I have compiled knowledge from visit:!saras-survival-stuff/c1mzf

For this article I used these resources the most: Bremness, Lesley. The Complete Book of Herbs. New York: Viking Studio, 1988. Print. Castleman, Michael, and Sheldon Saul. Hendler. The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature's Medicines. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 1991. Print.

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