(species Petroselinum crispum), hardy biennial herb of the family Apiaceae, or Umbelliferae, native to Mediterranean lands. Parsley leaves were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a flavouring and garnish for foods. Parsley is thought to have originated in Sardinia, but the plant has been altered significantly by cultivation. In mythology, parsley was believed to have sprung from a Greek hero, Archemorous, the forerunner of death. Greeks crowned winners at the Isthmian games with parsley, and warriors fed the leaves to their horses. The compound leaves--deep green, tender, and curled or deeply frilled--that develop in a cluster the first season of growth are used fresh or dried, the mildly aromatic flavour being popular in fish, meats, soups, sauces, and salads. Parsley is often the principal ingredient of bouquet garni and fines herbes. Parsley can be used to make golden green or yellow dyes.
In the second season of growth, seed stalks rise about 1 m (3 feet) tall and are topped by compound umbels of small, greenish yellow flowers followed by tiny fruits, or seeds, similar to those of a carrot but without spines. Parsley seedlings are small and weak; they emerge with difficulty from heavy, crusty soils.
Parsley contains less than 0.5 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is a pungent, oily, green liquid called apiol.
Hamburg parsley, or turnip-rooted parsley (P. crispum var. tuberosum), is grown for its large, white, parsnip-like root, which is popular in Europe.
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