Parsley – characteristics, cultivation and use


Parsley is one of the best known and most versatile culinary herbs. The herbal plant has been used in the kitchen since ancient times as a spice herb and as a medicinal herb. Today, two different varieties are known with the flat leaf parsley and the curly parsley, which can be used in different ways. In addition to the leaves, also the root is eaten as tasty vegetables.

Profile of parsley:

Scientific name: Petroselinum crispum

Plant family: umbellifer (Apiaceae)

Other names: garden parsley

Sowing time / Planting time: October – May

Flowering period: June – August

Harvest time: all year (leaves)

Useful plant parts: leaves, seeds, roots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich, slightly calcareous and humus rich soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: skin problems, rheumatism, tiredness and fatigue, flatulence

Use as aromatic herb: salads, potato dishes, quark dishes, herb butter, spice mixtures, fish dishes

Plant characteristics and classification of parsley

Origin and occurrence of parsley

Originally, parsley comes from the eastern Mediterranean. It is also wild in many countries today. Preferably, it populates steeper mountain slopes that are sunny or partial shade.

Plant order of parsley

Parsley belongs to the family of the umbels and is thus related to herbs such as dill, chervil or caraway. The narrower genus Petroselinum consists of the parsley we know and the relatively unknown corn parsley (Petroselinum segetum), which occurs mainly in Western and Southern Europe.

Today, three types or varieties of the plant are distinguished:

  • flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. Neopolitanum)
  • curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. Crispum)
  • Hamburg root parsley ( (Petroselinum crispum var. Tuberosum)

The Japanese parsley, also called Mitsuba, does not belong to this genus. Although it is also a plant of the order Umbelliflorae, it has rather a celery-like aroma and a much bushier leaf growth.

Look and characteristics of parsley


Parsley is a biennial herbaceous plant and reaches stature heights between 25 and 80 cm (10 and 32 in). It forms narrow, up to 15 cm (6 in) long whitish to yellowish taproots (parsley root), which can be eaten as a vegetable.


The leaves are, depending on the variety, dark green and feathery-cut. They are visually very similar to the leaves of celery. Neither the leaves nor the bald and upright stems are hairy. In contrast, the curly parsley varieties have a rather wavy leaf shape with slight tips at the top.


The greenish to yellowish flowers are arranged in long-stemmed double umbels. The plant blooms between June and August and then forms egg-shaped gray fruits.

Parsley – cultivation and care

With a little experience in growing herbs, parsley is quite easy to cultivate. For beginners, who plant the herb without cultivation hints, some frustration may occasionally come up, because the herb tends to develop badly in unfavorable conditions and improper care.


Parsley grows in sunny to partially shaded spots.


The soil should be rich in nutrients, slightly moist, slightly calcareous and well drained. Loamy soil should be mixed with a little sand. If parsley grows in the pot or tub, so a good ready-made herbal soil can be purchased, which should be chalked under some circumstances.


Sowing should best be done outdoors in May or in preculture between March and April. The seeds need warmth to develop optimally. Keeping a planting distance of about 20 cm (8 in), a seed is pressed about 3 cm (1.2 in) into the ground. Since parsley needs dark to germ, the seeds must necessarily be covered with soil. It may take up to four weeks for the first leaf to appear. The soil should always be kept slightly moist. The plants can be excellently cultivated in a herb garden. A cultivation on the balcony is also possible, however, a correspondingly deeper pot should be chosen because the plant forms taproots.


Parsley loves soils which are always slightly moist. Especially on hot or prolonged warm days, the plants should be watered regularly in the evenings. A poor water supply quickly favors the development of diseases. The same is true with too abundant water supply. Normal watering behavior is therefore recommended.


If the plant grows on a pre-fertilized and nutrient-rich soil, it must be fertilized sparingly during the year. Recommended are some fertilizers at the beginning of the summer. Suitable are compost, which is superficially mixed in the soil or organic vegetable or herbal fertilizer. If the spice herb grows in the pot, it should be fertilized every 4 to 5 weeks with liquid herbal fertilizer or with organic fertilizers (e.g. pellets). It is important that the plant has already reached a certain size (about 25 cm / 10 in). If the plant is to grow in the following year (parsley is biennial), the soil should also be slightly re-fertilized.


Parsley needs a lot of moisture, but does not tolerate waterlogging. The regular loosening of the soil with the hoe promotes a renewed sprouting after the first harvest and is important to keep the weeds at bay.


If on the green leaves show yellowish to light brown spots, this may be due to several reasons. If the plant withers, the dry leaf green is cut off. The leaf looks wilted, but is still vital, this can be a trigger for waterlogging or infestation with vermin in the root area. In the first case care should be taken to avoid waterlogging and to pour more moderately. Vermin, like nematodes are difficult to recognize. This can be avoided if parsley grows in company with other plants. Marigolds (calendula), dwarf marigolds (Tagetes) and onions have proven to be a natural insect repellent.

a closer look at the leaves of parsley
a closer look at the leaves of parsley

Harvest and storage

As soon as the plants are strong enough, fresh leaves can be harvested continuously from late spring on. After flowering, however, they become inedible. The shredded leaves are best spread fresh over potatoes, quark, salads, soups and sauces and not boiled. You can dry parsley in the oven for one minute at 200 °C / 392 °F, but the kitchen herb then loses a bit of color and aroma. The best way to preserve it is by freezing: wash the herb and shake off the moisture. Then chop it, put it in small foil bags or plastic pots and put them in the freezer.

Mixed culture and crop rotation

Like all other umbellifers, parsley may only be grown on the same bed every four to five years. Other umbellifers, such as carrots, should not be on the bed during this time. Spinach, chard, tomatoes and radishes have proven successful as mixed culture partners. On the other hand, lettuce should be kept at a distance, as it is not suitable as a planting partner.

Use of parsley

Parsley in the kitchen

From the plant the green leaves and the root can be used.

Parsley as seasoning is best used as fresh as possible. Long cooking times reduce the intense aroma easily and ensure rapid degradation or destruction of the contained vitamins. It is therefore best to sprinkle it over the dishes just before serving or to cook only for a short time.

The root is much more filling and vitamine-rich. Botanically, parsley root is a subspecies called Petroselinum crispum subsp. tuberasum. Externally, the shape of the root resembles a turnip – tapering to the end and from white to light brown color. The taste of the root is very mild, slightly sweetish and slightly reminiscent of carrot. The mineral-rich root vegetables are in demand as a raw food, but also as a low carbohydrate and low calorie substitute for potatoes, which can be prepared just like potatoes, for example in the form of mashed potatoes.

So that the parsley, in a container in the kitchen or the plant in the garden, still grows vigorously bushy, only single leaves are plucked. The regrowing young leaf green is left standing.

Parsley and mint salad

In the Mediterranean, but also in the Caucasus and Orient, much is cooked with fresh mint. Maybe you like this recipe as a fresh side dish to grilled meat or grilled vegetables?

You need:

  • 3 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 6 big tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 small chili pepper
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • Pepper salt

To prepare the herb salad, proceed as follows:

  • roughly chop the leaves of parsley and mint
  • mix both herbs and set aside
  • cut the rest of the vegetables into small cubes
  • stir a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and salt
  • mix the cucumbers, spring onions and tomatoes and fill in a salad bowl or arrange on plates
  • pour herbal mixture loosely over it and sprinkle everything with the sauce
  • before serving you can decorate the sauce with chili peppers cut into fine rings

Parsley as a medicinal herb

Parsley has made a name for itself as a medicinal plant over the centuries in addition to the culinary suitability. Numerous minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, B and C are what make it a healthy food.

The old German proverb “Parsley helps the man on the horse, the women under the earth!” refers to two things. According to popular belief parsley is said to have aphrodisiac effects on men. Due to its contracting effect on the uterine musculature, excessive consumption of it can, in the worst case, result in miscarriage or heavy blood loss during menstruation. In ancient times this was a serious problem and therefore the end of the proverb “helps women under the ground”.

Even today, there are cases in which parsley is used for abortion, which can be life-threatening due to the resulting high blood loss. If you are pregnant, avoid large quantities of parsley, its juice and its root!

The essential oil contained in leaves, seeds and roots has a strong diuretic effect, because it stimulates kidney activity. Therefore, you can use parsley juice supportive if you suffer from cystitis, kidney stones or bladder stones. As with all diuretic plants, do not forget to always drink a lot!

If the concentration is too high, the substance will contract on some muscles, which may cause seizures during menstrual bleeding.

Traditional folk medicine describes parsley or its components as effective in many conditions such as urinary gravel, kidney- and bladder stones, spleen and liver disease, jaundice, circulatory disorders, dropsy, indigestion and bladder weakness, chest pain, mucous congestion of the breast, stomach and kidneys, flatulence, fever, uterine disease, swollen thyroid gland, chronic cough, and lack of menstruation. The juice softens the itching of mosquito bites. These applications are based on tradition and of course not all scientifically researched.

Parsley can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bad breath
  • bladder inflammation
  • bladder stones
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • depression
  • earache
  • expelling afterbirth
  • fatigue
  • gout
  • loss of appetite
  • hangover
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion
  • insect bites
  • kidney stones
  • menopausal symptoms
  • menstrual cramps
  • mosquito bites
  • promoting contractions
  • promoting menstrual
  • rheumatism
  • shed
  • spring fever
  • ulcers

Medicinal properties

  • antispasmodic
  • diuretic
  • expectorant
  • toning

Besides, parsley is a patent herb against the smell that arises as a result of garlic consumption. The essential oils contained in the plant neutralize the exhalations of the odorous bulbous plant.

Preparation of parsley tea

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how you prepare a parsley tea by yourself

  1. put one to two teaspoons of parsley seeds or root in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. leave to draw for 10 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

  5. from this tea you drink one to three cups daily

Preparation of parsley tincture

To make a tincture yourself, sprinkle parsley seeds, roots or leaves in a screw capped jar with double grain or spirit until all parts of the plant are covered and allow the mixture to drain for 2 to 6 weeks. Then strain and fill in a dark bottle.

This tincture is taken one to three times a day 10-50 drops.

If the tincture is too concentrated, you can dilute it with water.

Tinctures of seeds AND leaves are considerably stronger than tinctures just made of leaves. The tinctures of roots in high doses pose the risk of mucous membrane irritation, especially of the kidneys and, in rare cases, cardiac arrhythmias.

Inwardly use of parsley

Parsley can be used internally, as a tea or tincture against bladder infections and stones in the bladder or kidney. (Caution, do not use in case of kidney inflammation). In addition, it helps against digestive weakness and flatulence.

Because the plant contains a lot of vitamin C, it can also be used to supplement with vitamins.

During birth parsley facilitates the work of the uterus and subsequently expels the afterbirth. One should use the parsley in larger quantities but only after a proper beginning of the birth.

Externally use of parsley

Externally you can use the tea or diluted tincture in the form of envelopes, baths or washes.

With this type of application you can relieve insect bites. It is also used externally for dandruff and ulcers.

Side effects

Pregnant women should NOT take parsley in large quantities, otherwise there is a risk of miscarriage. However, healthy pregnant women may eat in small quantities as a spice.

Patients with kidney inflammation should refrain from parsley as a medicinal plant.

Even non-pregnant healthy people should not eat too much parsley, because in severe overdosage, it can lead to cardiac arrhythmia and irritate the kidney mucous membranes.

For some people, too much parsley also causes an increased photosensitization.

Such overdoses actually only occur when you apply the seeds or roots as a tincture and not in the normal use of the leaves in the kitchen.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Parsley – What to pay attention to?

When buying, you should take a close look at the leaves and pot. If the leaves are strong and lush green, there is no reason not to buy. Yellowish leaves may be an indication of pests or too dry soil. Also, yellowish discoloration is not a sign of freshness and aroma

Dried and frozen herb is found in almost every discounter. Who would like to buy dried parsley, should make sure that the herbs were freeze-dried. Otherwise, frozen parsley is slightly more aromatic than dried. Attention must be paid to aroma-tight packaging. Sometimes cheap glass packaging is offered, which quickly lose their aroma.

When buying seeds, there is nothing special to consider. The choice of the different varieties is large, so that depending on the taste and appearance, everyone has to find the right product.

Parsley in the wild is easily mistaken for fool´s parsley (Aethusa cynapium). The leaves are similar to those of the flat-leaved parsley, the typical parsley fragrance is missing and is very harsh. In addition, the flowers of the fool´s parsley are white and the underside of the leaves is strikingly shiny.

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