(Carum Petroselinum, Linn.), a hardy biennial herb of the
natural order Umbelliferae, native to Mediterranean shores, and
cultivated for at least 2,000 years. The specific name is derived from
the habitat of the plant, which naturally grows among rocks, the Greek
word for which is petros. Many of the ancient writings contain
references to it, and some give directions for its cultivation. The
writings of the old herbali
ts of the 15th century show that in their
times it had already developed several well-defined forms and numerous
varieties, always a sure sign that a plant is popular. Throughout the
world today it is unquestionably the most widely grown of all garden
herbs, and has the largest number of varieties. In moist, moderately
cool climates, it may be found wild as a weed, but nowhere has it become
"Ah! the green parsley, the thriving tufts of dill;
These again shall rise, shall live the coming year."
Description.--Like most biennials, parsley develops only a rosette of
leaves during the first year. These leaves are dark green, long stalked
and divided two or three times into ovate, wedge-shaped segments, and
each division either entire, as in parsnip, or more or less finely cut
or "curled." During the second season the erect, branched, channeled
flower stems rise 2 feet or more high, and at their extremities bear
umbels of little greenish flowers. The fruits or "seeds" are light brown
or gray, convex on one side and flat on the other two, the convex side
marked with fine ribs. They retain their germinating power for three
years. An interesting fact, observed by Palladius in 210 A. D., is that
old seed germinates more freely than freshly gathered seed.
Cultivation.--Parsley is so easily grown that no garden, and indeed no
household, need be without it. After once passing the infant stage no
difficulty need be experienced. It will thrive in any ordinary soil and
will do well in a window box with only a moderate amount of light, and
that not even direct sunshine. Gardeners often grow it beneath benches
in greenhouses, where it gets only small amounts of light. No one need
hesitate to plant it.
The seed is very slow in germinating, often requiring four to six weeks
unless soaked before sowing. A full day's soaking in tepid water is none
too long to wake up the germs. The drills may be made in a cold frame
during March or in the open ground during April.
It is essential that parsley be sown very early in order to germinate at
all. If sown late, it may possibly not get enough moisture to sprout,
and if so it will fail completely. When sown in cold frames or beds for
transplanting, the rows may be only 3 or 4 inches apart, though it is
perhaps better, when such distances are chosen, to sow each alternate
row to forcing radishes, which will have been marketed by the time the
parsley seedlings appear. In the open ground the drills should be 12 to
15 inches apart, and the seed planted somewhat deeper and farther apart
than in the presumably better-prepared seedbed or cold frame. One inch
between seeds is none too little.
In field culture and at the distances mentioned six or seven pounds of
seed will be needed for the acre. For cultivation on a smaller scale an
ounce may be found sufficient for 50 to 100 feet of drill. This quantity
should be enough for any ordinary-sized family. In all open ground
culture the radish is the parsley's best friend, because it not only
marks the rows, and thus helps early cultivation, but the radishes
break, loosen and shade the soil and thus aid the parsley plants.
When the first thinning is done during May, the parsley plants may be
allowed to stand 2 inches asunder. When they begin to crowd at this
distance each second plant may be removed and sold. Four to six little
plants make a bunch. The roots are left on. This thinning will not only
aid the remaining plants, but should bring enough revenue to pay the
cost, perhaps even a little more. The first cutting of leaves from
plants of field-sown seed should be ready by midsummer, but as noted
below it is usually best to practice the method that will hasten
maturity and thus catch the best price. A "bunch" is about the amount
that can be grasped between the thumb and the first finger, 10 to 15
It is usual to divide the field into three parts so as to have a
succession of cuttings. About three weeks are required for a new crop of
leaves to grow and mature after the plants have been cut. Larger yields
can be secured by cutting only the fully matured leaves, allowing the
others to remain and develop for later cuttings. Three or four times as
much can be gathered from a given area in this way. All plain leaves of
such plants injure the appearance and reduce the price of the bunches
when offered for sale.
If protected from frost, the plants will yield all winter. They may be
easily transplanted in cold frames. These should be placed in some warm,
sheltered spot and the plants set in them 4 by 6 inches. Mats or
shutters will be needed in only the coldest weather. Half a dozen to a
dozen stalks make the usual bunch and retail for 2 or 3 cents.
In the home garden, parsley may be sown as an edging for flower beds and
borders. For such purpose it is best to sow the seed thickly during late
October or November in double rows close together, say 3 or 4 inches.
Sown at that time, the plants may be expected to appear earlier than if
spring sown and to form a ribbon of verdure which will remain green not
only all the growing season, but well into winter if desired. It is
best, however, to dig them up in the fall and resow for the year
For window culture, all that is needed is a box filled with rich soil.
The roots may be dug in the fall and planted in the box. A sunny window
is best, but any window will do. If space is at a premium, a nail keg
may be made to yield a large amount of leaves. Not only may the tops be
filled with plants, but the sides also. Holes should be bored in the
staves about 4 inches apart. (See illustration, page 2.) A layer of
earth is placed in the bottom as deep as the lowest tier of holes. Then
roots are pushed through these holes and a second layer of earth put in.
The process is repeated till the keg is full. Then plants are set on the
top. As the keg is being filled the earth should be packed very firmly,
both around the plants and in the keg. When full the soil should be
thoroughly soaked and allowed to drain before being taken to the window.
To insure a supply of water for all the plants, a short piece of pipe
should be placed in the center of the keg so as to reach about half way
toward the bottom. This will enable water to reach the plants placed in
the lower tiers of holes. If the leaves look yellow at any time, they
may need water or a little manure water.
As parsley is grown for its leaves, it can scarcely be over fertilized.
Like cabbage, but, of course, upon a smaller scale, it is a gross
feeder. It demands that plenty of nitrogenous food be in the soil. That
is, the soil should be well supplied with humus, preferably derived from
decaying leguminous crops or from stable manure. A favorite commercial
fertilizer for parsley consists of 3 per cent nitrogen, 8 per cent
potash and 9 per cent phosphoric acid applied in the drills at
the rate of 600 to 900 pounds to the acre in two or three
applications--especially the nitrogen, to supply which nitrate of soda
is the most popular material.
A common practice among market gardeners in the neighborhood of New York
has been to sow the seed in their cold frames between rows of lettuce
transplanted during March or early April. The lettuce is cut in May, by
which time the parsley is getting up. When grown by this plan the crop
may be secured four or five weeks earlier than if the seed is sown in
the open ground. The first cutting may be made during June. After this
first cutting has been made the market usually becomes overstocked and
the price falls, so many growers do not cut again until early September
when they cut and destroy the leaves preparatory to securing an autumn
and winter supply.
When the weather becomes cool and when the plants have developed a new
and sturdy rosette of leaves, they are transplanted in shallow trenches
either in cold frames, in cool greenhouses (lettuce and violet houses),
under the benches of greenhouses, or, in fact, any convenient place that
is not likely to prove satisfactory for growing plants that require more
heat and light.
This method, it must be said, is not now as popular near the large
cities as before the development of the great trucking fields in the
Atlantic coast states; but it is a thoroughly practical plan and well
worth practicing in the neighborhood of smaller cities and towns not
adequately supplied with this garnishing and flavoring herb.
A fair return from a cold frame to which the plants have been
transplanted ranges from $3 to $7 during the winter months. Since many
sashes are stored during this season, such a possible return deserves to
be considered. The total annual yield from an acre by this method may
vary from $500 to $800 or even more--gross. By the ordinary field
method from $150 to $300 is the usual range. Instead of throwing away
the leaves cut in September, it should be profitable to dry these leaves
and sell them in tins or jars for flavoring.
When it is desired to supply the demand for American seed, which is
preferred to European, the plants may be managed in any of the ways
already mentioned, either allowed to remain in the field or transplanted
to cold frames, or greenhouses. If left in the field, they should be
partially buried with litter or coarse manure. As the ground will not be
occupied more than a third of the second season, a crop of early beets,
forcing carrots, radishes, lettuce or some other quick-maturing crop may
be sown between the rows of parsley plants. Such crops will mature by
the time the parsley seed is harvested in late May or early June, and
the ground can then be plowed and fitted for some late crop such as
early maturing but late-sown sweet corn, celery, dwarf peas, late beets
or string beans.
When seed is desired, every imperfect or undesirable plant should be
rooted out and destroyed, so that none but the best can fertilize each
other. In early spring the litter must be either removed from the plants
and the ground between the rows given a cultivation to loosen the
surface, or it may be raked between the rows and allowed to remain until
after seed harvest. In this latter case, of course, no other crop can be
Like celery seed, parsley seed ripens very irregularly, some umbels
being ready to cut from one to three weeks earlier than others. This
quality of the plant may be bred out by keeping the earliest maturing
seed separate from the later maturing and choosing this for producing
subsequent seed crops. By such selection one to three weeks may be saved
in later seasons, a saving of time not to be ignored in gardening
In ordinary seed production the heads are cut when the bulk of the seed
is brown or at least dark colored. The stalks are cut carefully, to
avoid shattering the seed off. They are laid upon sheets of duck or
canvas and threshed very lightly, at once, to remove only the ripest
seed. Then the stalks are spread thinly on shutters or sheets in the sun
for two days and threshed again. At that time all seed ripe enough to
germinate will fall off. Both lots of seed must be spread thinly on the
sheets in an airy shed or loft and turned daily for 10 days or two weeks
to make sure they are thoroughly dry before being screened in a fanning
mill and stored in sacks hung in a loft.
Varieties.--There are four well-defined groups of parsley varieties;
common or plain, curled or moss-leaved, fern-leaved, and Hamburg. The
last is also known as turnip-rooted or large-rooted. The objections to
plain parsley are that it is not as ornamental as moss-leaved or
fern-leaved sorts, and because it may be mistaken for fools parsley, a
plant reputed to be more or less poisonous.
In the curled varieties the leaves are more or less deeply cut and the
segments reflexed to a greater or less extent, sometimes even to the
extent of showing the lighter green undersides. In this group are
several subvarieties, distinguished by minor differences, such as extent
of reflexing and size of the plants.
In the fern-leaved group the very dark green leaves are not curled but
divided into numerous threadlike segments which give the plant a very
delicate and dainty appearance.
Hamburg, turnip-rooted or large-rooted parsley, is little grown in
America. It is not used as a garnish or an herb, but the root is cooked
as a vegetable like carrots or beets. These roots resemble those of
parsnips. They are often 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Their
cultivation is like that of parsnips. They are cooked and served like
carrots. In flavor, they resemble celeriac or turnip-rooted celery, but
are not so pleasing. In Germany the plant is rather popular, but, except
by our German gardeners, it has been little cultivated in this country.
Uses.--The Germans use both roots and tops for cooking; the former as
a boiled vegetable, the latter as a potherb. In English cookery the
leaves are more extensively used for seasoning fricassees and dressings
for mild meats, such as chicken and veal, than perhaps anything else. In
American cookery parsley is also popular for this purpose, but is most
extensively used as a garnish. In many countries the green leaves are
mixed with salads to add flavor. Often, especially among the Germans,
the minced green leaves are mixed with other vegetables just before
being served. For instance, if a liberal dusting of finely minced
parsley be added to peeled, boiled potatoes, immediately after draining,
this vegetable will seem like a new dish of unusual delicacy. The
potatoes may be either served whole or mashed with a little butter, milk