Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) originated from the central Mediterranean region of Europe, and is widely used in American, European and Middle-Eastern cooking, as well as being a very popular garnish. Garden parsley is a bright-green biennial plant in most U.S. climates, but performs as an annual in hot, humid locations such as southern Florida and southern Texas. Where it does grow as a biennial, it forms leaves and a taproot in the first year. In the second year, it grows a flowering stem as tall as 30 inches with sparser leaves, and flat-topped flower clusters with numerous tiny yellow flowers. The plant normally dies after its second year.
Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with exposure to full sun. Germination is slow, taking 4 to 6 weeks. There are 2 basic types of parsley – Leaf Parsley, and, Root Parsley – that are further subdivided to specifics.
1. Leaf Parsley
Green, leaf parsley is often used as a garnish on a wide variety of dishes, and freshly chopped green parsley is used as a topping for soups and salads. The two main groups of leaf parsley used as herbs are curly leaf (P. crispum crispum group; syn. P. crispum var. crispum) and Italian, or flat leaf (P. crispum neapolitanum group; syn. P. crispum var. neapolitanum).
• Curly leaf parsley has a more decorative appearance to be used as a garnish.
• Flat-leaved parsley has a slightly stronger flavor and is the preferred type for most recipes. Additionally, it is easier to cultivate, being more tolerant of rain and sunshine.
2. Root Parsley
Another type of parsley – Hamburg Root Parsley (P. crispum radicosum group, syn. P. crispum var. tuberosum) – is grown as a root vegetable that is used in soups, stews, or simply eaten raw as a snack (like carrots). Root parsley produces much thicker roots than the leaf parsleys, and looks much like a parsnip, but tastes quite different than one.