Before we start, I’d like to thank all of our readers who have shared their stories and added their comments to the previous Zaytuna Farm herb articles. It’s important that we share our knowledge on these wonderful plants. It reminds me of when we do the day tours at Zaytuna Farm and the visitors share their experiences with the different herbs in their gardens.
Herbs are so simple, yet so complex. It’s amazing to read people’s experiences with these herbal heroes. Six herbs in and we have barely entered the kitchen garden. In fact, we have only just past the entrance. A kitchen garden is not complete without the familiar face of Parsley?
Currently known as Petroselinum crispum, she’s gone by a range of scientific names in the past. A familiar plant to many, she’s so full of surprises.
She is either biennial or perennial, depending on the climate, and grows to around 30-60cm tall. Her leaves grow from long stems in a rosette and flowers in umbels. Picking parsley regularly, from the base of the outside stems (rather than just the leaves, or the stems closer to the centre) will encourage new growth from the centre.
Parsley will grow from part sun to full shade, but will generally grow better in full sun, although in very hot climates she’ll appreciate the shade. Parsley usually does well in pots, but wherever she is, she prefers a rich soil and plenty of water. Compost, rotted manure and worm castings all encourage parsley to put on a show of new growth. In humid climates she can be susceptible to root rot, in which case you might like to try Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum) which has flat leaves and is less prone to root diseases.
Parsley is a common companion plant in the garden. At Zaytuna Farm you’ll find her growing amongst strawberries, radishes, and nasturtiums. It’s said to be especially good with tomatoes, onions, beans, chives and roses, but not so great with lettuce or cabbage.
Parsley is always grown from seeds, which are very variable in terms of germination time, and relatively slow to get started. To help speed Parsley seeds along, try popping them in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks, then soaking in boiling water for several hours. Sow seeds with just a fine layer of soil over them, and keep moist while germinating.
Common Uses Of Parsley
Parsley is most commonly known as a culinary herb, and happily so, as it makes such a lovely addition to so many meals. In the kitchen, Parsley is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad, in salsa verde in Mexico and with garlic and potatoes in France. A pesto made of Parsley and Coriander makes a delicious dip or as a side with meat, eggs or vegetables. Parsley is said to bring out the flavour of foods it is served with and to be especially good with onions or garlic as it softens their flavour and masks the onion/garlic breath.
Parsley’s Nutritional Values
The first of Parsley’s surprises to those who know her as a pet garnish is that she is a nutritional powerhouse. Parsley contains high levels of both vitamins A and C, as well as vitamin K1 and numerous Bs. It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and potassium.
Medicinal Uses Of Parsley
Perhaps, partly because of her nutritive value, Parsley has traditionally been used for a wide range of ailments, including indigestion, fevers, malaria, arthritis, anaemia, kidney stones, UTIs, cystitis, delayed periods, digestive complaints and heart disease. Herbalists have long esteemed it as a general nutritive and tonic, both healing and building body nutrition reserves. It’s also said to lower blood pressure and slow the pulse. In South America and Italy it’s used as an abortifacient. A parsley tea or infusion is used for indigestion, gas in the stomach, to help gout, prostate health and ease PMS.
Parsley is sometimes used to help dry up breast-milk, so medicinal quantities are not recommended when breastfeeding. Parsley is also not recommended during pregnancy or if you’re taking blood-thinning medication.
Parsley essential oil is recommended by Jeanne Rose for arthritis, gas and indigestion, and as a labour aid during birth. Robert Tisserand recommends not using either the seed or the leaf essential oil while pregnant or breastfeeding at all, as it may be an abortifacient, and can be toxic if taken by mouth.
With her frilly, deep to vibrant bright green leaves, her ability to set up home in a well-placed pot, and her abundance once she really puts her roots down, Parsley is in traditional kitchen gardens for a reason. She’ll be happy on a sunny window sill, and give you nutritious greens, and healing tea as long as she gets sunshine and water.
If you’ve had any close encounters with Parsley we’d love to hear them below.
How can I use Herbs in my Daily Life? By Isabell Shipard
Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies by Penny Woodward
375 Essential OIls and Hydrosols by Jeanne Rose
Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand
Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee de la Foret