“If parsley flourishes… the missus is master” was an old saying.
(And now you know why my parsley flourishes.)
“To be an old sage, you have to eat lots of parsley” was another.
Here are more snippets from parsley’s fascinating history.
- It is widely believed that parsley originated in Sardinia, although an early writer says that parsley has the “curious botanic history that no one can tell what its native country is.”
- The fact that the seeds are slow to germinate led to the belief that the seeds have to travel down to the ‘warm place’ and back before the plants will appear.
- An old wives’ tale says that pouring boiling water over newly sow seeds will hasten the germination process – presumably to fool the seeds that they have already visited the ‘other place’.
- For centuries Greek soldiers believed that any contact with parsley before battle signalled impending death. Because of this association with death, parsley was planted on Greek graves.
- Ironically the above custom changed popular belief as it was then believed to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero. So the Greek warriors then fed it to their chariot horses, and victorious athletes at the Isthmian games were crowned with parsley garlands.
Eish! And Asterix (from Gaul) thought the Romans were crazy.
Famous herbalists also praised the virtues of parsley.
- Roman physician Galen prescribed it for “falling sickness” (epilepsy) and as a diuretic for water retention.
- The Romans were also to first to munch parsley sprigs to freshen their breath.
- Medieval German abbess/herbalist Hildegard of Bingen prescribed parsley compresses for arthritis and parsley boiled in wine for chest and heart pain.
- Nicolas Culpepper (17th-century British herbalist) reiterated Galen and prescribed parsley to “provoke urine and women’s courses… to expel wind … to break the stone and ease the pains and torments thereof… and against cough.”
- It’s listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia 1850 – 1926 and King’s American Dispensatory 1898.
- Commission E, the expert panel that evaluates herbal medicines for the German counterpart of the FDA, approves parsley as a diuretic.
What about parsley tickles you the most?
Illustration from: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 642.