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Leaf parsley, parsley root

botanical name: Petroselinum crispum

Petersilie, krauss


The south-eastern or western Mediterranean region, southwest Europe, and western Asia are all indicated as being the original home of parsley. It has been known in the Mediterranean countries for about 2000 years, although it was used at the beginning more for medicinal purposes. It was first cultivated in England in the 16th century.


Today it is grown both outdoors and under glass all over the world. The chief producing countries in Europe are France, Germany and some in Eastern Europe. Cultivation of parsley continues to be important in North and East Africa, Southeast Asia, Brazil, the USA and Argentina.



Where leaf parsley is grown commercially, the first cut takes place in June, and further harvests can follow, usually in August and October, depending on weather conditions.


Parsley is suited for planting in one's own herb garden. It the plant is protected by a plastic cover in the winter, fresh leaves can be picked all year round. Greenhouse goods as well as deep-frozen and dried parsley are also available all year. Many supermarkets also sell fresh parsley in small plant pots.


Parsley roots are dug up in October.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Parsley is a biennial or a perennial herb and, depending on the variety, can grow to a height between 30 cm and 1 m. It belongs to the family of the Umbelliferae, but it does not develop flowering stems until the second year.


We distinguish between two basic sub-species:

1. Curly-leaf parsley or flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum convar. crispum, or foliosum)

Only the leaves forming a rosette are used; these are tripinnate, with round or wedge-shaped, cartilaginous, dentate leaflets. Depending on the variety, the leaves may be more or less curly or smooth. Their thin, hard root is not suitable for use in cooking.


The leaves taste spicy and a bit peppery, whereby flat-leaf parsley has a more intensive flavour than the curly variety. Parsley has an unmistakeable aromatic scent and flavour.

2. Root parsley (Petroselinum crispum convar. radicosum, or tuberosum)

From this type of parsley the turnip-shaped, fleshy, thickened taproot is also used. Its surface is wrinkled and yellowish-white, with yellow or red-brown horizontal stripes. The root may be up to 5 cm thick at the top, tapers to thin at the bottom, and can attain a length of 20 cm.

The roots smell similar to leaf parsley and taste sweetish, aromatic, and also somewhat pungent. The aroma is somewhere between that of leaf parsley and that of celeriac. The leaves of root parsley can also be used for seasoning. They resemble those of flat-leaf parsley but taste and look a bit coarser.



The leaves contain 0.02-0.9% essential oil, which is responsible for the characteristic parsley scent. Among the chief components are myristicin, apiol, and various terpenes.


Moreover, the flavonoid content can be as high as 6%, with apiin predominating. Also remarkable is the high vitamin-C content in the fresh leaves.


The percentage of essential oil in the roots is 0.1-0.3%. In addition to pinene and phellandrene, myristicin, apiol and terpenes are found.


Harmful substances

In large doses, parsley essential oil can be unhealthy. However, the oil content of the leaves and the roots is so negligible that there is no need to worry about using it as a seasoning.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Fresh parsley keeps well. Especially the curly-leaf varieties can be wrapped in foil or moist paper and kept in cold storage for about 1 week. At optimal storage conditions of 0°C and high humidity, the leaves will even keep for up to 8 weeks.


The leaves can also be deep-frozen, either whole or chopped. They retain their green appearance but lose some of their seasoning strength. Drying the leaves is not recommended, because the loss of aroma is even greater.


The fresh roots keep best at 2-7°C and can be stored for several months. Dried roots should be kept in an airtight container and as cool, dry and protected from light as possible.


Presumed effect on health

Parsley was used 2000 years ago as a medicinal plant. It stimulates the production of gastric juices and is considered to be an appetizer and a digestive. In folk medicine it is used to treat flatulence and menstrual discomfort.


Parsley is also a diuretic and recommended for urinary tract ailments. Before it is used, however, pregnancy, kidney disorders and oedema should be precluded, and there must be sufficient intake of fluids.


Topically, parsley was used earlier for injuries, bruises and insect bites.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Parsley leaves are best used fresh. However, they are also sold dried or freeze-dried, whole, rubbed or cut. Deep-frozen cut leaves are available as well.


Along with chives, parsley is the herb most used in European cooking. The finely chopped leaves and stems are added to almost all hearty dishes: soups, sauces, broths, meat and fish dishes, vegetables, boiled potatoes, casseroles and salads.


Parsley leaves taste good with cheese, curd cheese, eggs, potato, rice and noodle dishes, or simply on buttered bread. Likewise, the leaves can be fried or deep-fried. The curly-leaf varieties in particular are popular for decorating cold platters, salads and stews.


Parsley roots go well with soups and stews. They are sold together with carrots, celeriac and leeks as so-called soup greens. Herb mixtures for soups frequently contain dried parsley roots.

Parsley essential oil is used in the perfume industry.


Seasoning tip

Particularly the curly varieties should be added to food just before it is served, while fresh flat leaves are more flavourful and are often cooked with food. The dried leaves may also be cooked briefly.


Parsley enhances the aroma of other seasonings. It harmonizes especially well with dill, chives, garden cress, chervil, borage, garlic and pepper. It also goes well with basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, bay leaf and mint.



Flat-leaf parsley can easily be confused with poisonous fool's parsley (Aethusa cynapium) or with the leaves of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). If you rub the leaves you will note the difference: the two poisonous look-alikes have an unpleasant smell that is not characteristic of parsley.


Parsley roots are sometimes mistaken for parsnips.





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