Parsley bunch on a grey dark background

What’s Fresh in December? Parsley

The herb with the spiciest history

Story By Bailey Gilliam

Most people recognize parsley as a decorative green garnish with a delicious, vibrant taste, but there’s more to this pungent leafy herb than meets the eye. Parsley has an interesting cultivation history that dates back more than 2,000 years. This plant probably originated in the Mediterranean region but became popular throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, when it was commonly grown in royal gardens and monasteries. Though it eventually became known as a food, it was originally used for ornamental purposes. 

According to Greek beliefs, parsley evolved from the bloodshed of Archemorous, the herald of death, and therefore considered sacred and wasn’t used for culinary purposes. They used parsley to decorate tombs and made parsley wreaths to bestow on the winners at the Isthmian Games in the same manner as bay wreaths honored the Olympians. The Romans used parsley to cure the morning-after-the-banquet feeling (or, as we call it, the hangover). During medieval times it was placed on tables and worn around the necks of people attending feasts because it was thought to absorb food odors. 

Parsley was used in the Hebrew celebration of Passover. It also was used for medicinal purposes to treat various illnesses such as digestive disorders, bronchitis and toothaches. While it is uncertain when parsley began its culinary exploits, it seems to be sometime in the Middle Ages in Europe. Some historians credit Charlemagne with its popularization since he had it grown on his estates. The Romans introduced the herb to England during their rule. Early immigrants to the Americas introduced it as a culinary herb. And the journey continues.

Fun fact

Parsley belongs to the same family as cumin, carrots and celery.

Health benefits

While parsley isn’t used to treat illness today, it still offers plenty of health benefits. It’s a low-calorie, nutrient-dense herb rich in vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting and bone health, and vitamins A and C, important nutrients with antioxidant properties. The powerful antioxidants in parsley may help prevent cell damage and lower your risk of certain diseases, including cancer. Parsley contains lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, plant compounds that protect eye health and may reduce your risk of certain age-related eye conditions like AMD. The folate in parsley protects your heart and may reduce your risk of heart disease. And parsley extract has been shown to have antibacterial properties in test-tube studies, but more research is needed. 

Add it to your garden

Best planted in the spring, most varieties of parsley grow fairly slowly, establishing maturity between 70 to 90 days after planting. Choose a spot with full sun and well-draining soil, and plant seeds 1/4-inch deep between 6-10 inches apart and away from fast-growing plants. Parsley plants need moist soil, so water 1-2 inches weekly. You can begin harvesting when the plant is about 6 inches tall and bushy. Harvest whole stems from the base of the plant to encourage more growth. Take from the outer leaves, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. You can harvest as needed, but try not to remove more than one-third of the leaves at a time. 

Curly and flat

There are two main varieties of parsley, which can be used interchangeably in any recipe.

Flat leaf: Also called Italian parsley, this variety has dark green leaves with toothed edges. It has a full, fresh grassy flavor and aroma. This type grows up to 36 inches tall and is more flavorful. Our favorites are ‘Titan’ and ‘Giant of Italy.’ 

Curly (common): With frilled, curly leaves, this type of parsley is often used as a pretty garnish. It has a slightly less pronounced flavor than flat-leaf parsley. They are easy to grow and attractive in the garden. Some of our favorite varieties are ‘Forest Green’ and ‘Extra Curled Dwarf.’

Looking down on the vibrant green leaves of the flat italian parsley plant.
close up of fresh curly parsley growing in the garden

No. 1 pick

Choose fresh parsley that is deep green and looks fresh and crisp. Avoid bunches with wilted or yellow leaves, which indicates they are either overmature or damaged. Choose not too wet or soggy parsley, and shake off as much water as possible before placing it in the grocery store’s plastic produce bag.

Dried chopped parsley in white ceramic bowl next to fresh parsley leaves isolated on white from above.

Tips for prepping parsley

  • Slice off the bottom 1/3 of the tougher stems, leaving any tender stems attached to the leaves.
  • Save the thicker parsley stems to throw into stocks, soups, homemade juices or smoothies. They taste great and are packed with beneficial vitamins.
  • To clean parsley, put the trimmed parts in a large bowl of cold water. Swish around to get sand or dirt out of the leaves. Let sit for a minute or two. Lift the leaves out of the bowl, leaving the dirt and debris behind. Transfer to a salad spinner and spin dry.
  • Pile the parsley on a clean towel or double layer of paper towels. Gently pat dry to remove any remaining droplets of water.
  • Roll up the damp paper towel around the parsley. At this point, you can chop or place the rolled-up parsley in a plastic bag or covered container. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tips for storing parsley

  • Washed and dried parsley leaves will keep for a week, refrigerated. Store it wrapped in damp, rolled towels in a Ziploc plastic bag. Or stand the whole bunch (with the stems trimmed) in a cup or jar with some water in the bottom.
  • Chopped parsley will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Dried parsley: Leave chopped parsley on a plate or shallow bowl at room temperature for a day or two. It will darken slightly in color and become dry to the touch.
  • Freezing: Chopped parsley can be frozen in a small, airtight container for up to one month. It will lose its fresh green color but can still be used in cooked dishes.


Parsley chimichurri

This chimichurri recipe is full of bright, garlicky flavor and is the perfect outlet for your parsley. This classic Argentinian sauce is ideal with steak, fish, vegetables and more.

Green chimichurri parsley sauce with grilled steak


1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup very finely chopped Italian parsley (1 bunch)

1/2 cup finely chopped, loosely packed fresh oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil


[1] Combine water and kosher salt in a small saucepan and heat until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. [2] In a large bowl, stir together the minced garlic, Italian parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes. Whisk in red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt water. Taste and add additional red pepper flakes if desired. Serve immediately. Store refrigerated for 2 to 3 weeks.

 Cassandra’s Kitchen Store 

Ina’s Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta

Add some spice to your life with this Mediterranean classic. Ina Garten’s tabbouleh recipe will leave you wanting more and wanting to travel across the Atlantic. 

Ina’s Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta


1 cup quinoa

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (5 scallions)

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (2 bunches)

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and medium-diced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem

2 cups medium-diced feta (8 ounces)


[1] Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon of salt, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains are tender and open. Drain, place in a bowl and immediately add the lemon juice, olive oil and 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. [2] In a large bowl, combine the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Add the quinoa and mix well. Carefully fold in the feta and taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.


Parsley salad

Parsley is often seen as a garnish, but not in this Mediterranean-inspired chopped salad. Serve this refreshing salad with your favorite grilled chicken or shrimp. 

Homemade Cucumber Shepards Salad with Feta and Parsley


2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks

8 baby cucumbers, sliced

2 red bell peppers, chopped

2 bunches parsley, finely minced

Handful kalamata olives

1 1/2 cups cubed feta cheese

1/ 4 cup olive oil

1/ 4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/ 4 cup maple syrup


[1] Put tomato, cucumbers, pepper, parsley, olives and feta cheese into a large bowl. Toss to combine. [2] Whisk olive oil, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and maple syrup. Pour over salad. 

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