Parsley, a common umbelliferous garden plant which has been in cultivation for centuries. The old English authors wrote the word percely, evidently from the Fr. persil, that being derived from the Lat. petroselinum, which is from the Gr. , a rock, and , some umbelliferous plant. In most works the botanical name of parsley is given as petroselinum sativum, but Bentham and Hooker, in revising this most difficult family for their Genera Plantarum, found that petroselinum was not sufficiently distinct to rank as a genus, and united it with carum, the caraway; their views are likely to be adopted, and parsley will hereafter be carum petroselinum. The family umoellifera is often called the parsley family, and its members for the most part-have a strong family resemblance; the genera are founded upon minute differences in the fruit, puzzling to the botanist, and altogether too obscure for popular description. Parsley, like many others of the family, has hollow stems, much divided leaves with sheathing petioles, and small five-petalled flowers in compound umbels, followed by a fruit which splits into one-seeded halves; the coating of these half fruits contains an aromatic oil in long narrow receptacles or oil tubes, which are often placed between elevated ribs. Parsley is a biennial, sometimes lasting longer, with a thick white root, which with the leaves and all other parts has a peculiar aromatic odor and taste.
The leaves are triangular in general outline, twice pinnate and in the garden varieties much subdivided and cut. The first year it forms a tuft of radical leaves; the next year the flower stem appears and grows about 3 ft. high with umbels of small yellowish or greenish flowers, followed by the fruits or seeds. Parsley is a native of the eastern Mediterranean region, and being much cultivated throughout Europe has established itself in various localities; in England it is quite naturalized on some of the rocky coasts. It is cultivated in most gardens for its aromatic leaves, which are used in seasoning soups and various dishes, and also for garnishing, the rich green color of the leaves and their elegantly divided and crisped foliage making it superior to all other plants for this use. The original form of the plant, with plain leaves, is seldom seen, several varieties with finely cut foliage, called curled and double parsley, being preferred on account of their greater beauty; in some of the recent kinds, called fimbriated or mossy, the leaves are remarkably subdivided. Hamburg parsley is a large-rooted variety, cultivated in the same manner as carrots; its roots are used to flavor soups and stews, or are cooked separately like parsnips.
The seeds of parsley are very slow in germinating, often remaining a month or six weeks before the plants appear. When the plants are large enough they are thinned to 10 in. apart, or transplanted and set at the same distance; it is said that repeated trans-plantings tend to make the leaves more double. Parsley is sometimes used as an edging to beds in kitchen gardens with pleasing effect. Market gardeners supply it fresh all winter; in September the foliage is cut away from the roots, and before cold weather a short dense tuft of leaves is formed; the plants are dug before the ground freezes, and stored in trenches covered with straw. If kept in the open ground over winter, it should be protected by litter; in spring it soon throws up its flower stalks. The leaves are the favorite food of the parsley worm, a green caterpillar marked with black and yellow spots; when disturbed it throws out, just behind its head, a pair of soft orange-colored horns, which emit a powerful and most repulsive odor; this is the larva of a large, handsome black butterfly with yellow markings, papilio asterias. Parsley has long been used medicinally, and at one time remarkable powers were attributed to it; the root is now occasionally employed as a diuretic.
Its odor has a remarkable power in neutralizing or masking other odors; it is often chewed after eating onions, and it is said to render even the odor of garlic imperceptible. In some parts of England the superstition prevails among the rural people that to transplant parsley will entail bad luck. - Fool's parsley, cethusa cyna-pium, is a highly poisonous plant of the same family, introduced from Europe and more or less naturalized in some of the older states; as it resembles the plain form of parsley, serious accidents and even death have resulted in England from mistaking it for parsley. In flower the two are easily distinguished, as in the fool's parsley each partial umbel has an involucel of three long, narrow, pendent leaves beneath it, which the true parsley has not; mistakes may be avoided by using only the curled parsley.
Single or Wild Parsley (Carum petroselinum).