Parsley: the Stone Breaker

Petroselinum crispum. photo: Forest and Kim Starr

Here’s HerbDoc with the first  of a series of holiday week posts on – you guessed it – herbs!

Here in Rhode Island, the majority of herbs in the garden have been put to bed for the winter, except for the parsley, sage and rosemary which are still green and vibrant.

It’s such a shame that most gardeners think of parsley as a decorative accent and overlook its high medicinal and nutritional value.

In ancient times the Greeks fed it to their horses before a race, believing it would help them to run faster.  They also ate it themselves to subdue the odor of onions and garlic, and men wore parsley wreaths on their heads at banquets thinking that the fumes of wine would be absorbed and that they would not become drunk.

In the Middle Ages, the medicinal uses of parsley were many.  It was used “to cause urine”, assist with liver, stomach and vein problems and “waste away winde.” The name, parsley, comes from the Greek for “stone breaker.” Parsley seed is also one the sources for an organic chemical compound called “apiol” which is used as an essential oil or in purified form for the treatment of menstrual disorders and malaria.  In high doses, apiol is toxic and can cause liver and kidney damage.

Parsley is a very rich source of niacin, vitamin A, calcium, thiamin and riboflavin and has more vitamin C than an orange.  Some herbalists think of it as an excellent arthritis pain remedy, and it is often used to eliminate bad breath.

If you’re interested in having a supply of fresh parsley in the colder months of the year, grow the flat leaved varieties.  Although the curled leaf parsley is the prettier of the two, it tends to hold the cold rain/snow which freezes on the leaves and kills the plants.  I try to grow mine with a little protection (actually under a deck table!) and have almost a year round supply for soups, stews and sauces.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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