Petroselinum crispum Hoffm (sin. P. hortense)
Apiaceae (sin. Umbelliferae)
History and origins
It was known by ancient Romans as a medicinal plant. In the past, it was also used as an emmenagogue and an abortifacient because of apiol (one of its main components) which contracts the smooth muscles of the intestine, bladder and uterus.
Towards 1500, it began to be considered as a food source, first in Italy, and then in England and Germany.
Various studies highlight the biological activity of parsley:
– it contains large quantities of apigenin which has been found to have a strong antitumoral activity as it inhibits the formation of new blood vessels that feed cancerous growths (especially in breast tumors);
– myristicin has shown analogous results with lung tumor formation;
– it is a source of phytoactive compounds, mainly carotenoids (pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene) with well-known protective effects from atherosclerosis, colon cancer, diabetes, asthma…;
– it has a high vitamin C content with its ensuing anti-inflammatory properties (e.g. it hinders osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), a high vitamin K content (which is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens bone composition), and sphingolipids (the fats needed to maintain the myelin sheath around nerves);
– like mint, sage and thyme, it has a strong antimutagen effect thanks to its antioxidant properties and the capacity of phenolic compounds (especially luteolin) to inhibit DNA damage caused by free radicals;
– the aqueous extracts of its seeds increase diuresis, and therefore help reduce blood pressure (hypotensive action); its diuretic and sudorific properties are mainly due to apioside, a flavonic substance;
– in ancient times, parsley was also used as an emmenagogue and an abortifacient due to its apiol content which induces the contraction of smooth muscles of the intestine, bladder and uterus. Because of its abortifacient effect, pregnant women must avoid coonsuming excessive quantities of parsley.
Diffusion and importance
Biologic type: parsley is an herbaceous plant, biologically biennal, but annual in cultivation.
Leaves:pinnatisect, some peltate, lobate and triangular in outline, some linear and whole with long stalks.
Inflorescence: the transition from the vegetative to the reproductive phase is regulated by the photoperiod (long-day species). A flowering stem (erect, branched, at most 1.0-1.5 m in height) leads to umbels composed of small, hermaphrodite flowers, with greenish petals. Cross-fertilization (allogamous species) with mainly entomophilous pollination. Flowering and seed ripening are progressive.
Fruit: it is a diachene (schizocarp), glabrous, oblong, spherical. The single achene (“seed”) has an oblong shape, yellow- brown color, one flattened side and one convex side that is characterized, as with other Umbellifers, by well-defined ribbing; it is similar to the carrot fruit, but larger (1,000 seeds weigh 1.5-2 g).
Climate and soil requirements
Parsley is a species that prefers warm climates; it has low resistance to severe and prolonged cold. Germination is a very delicate and difficult phase: at 10-12° C it takes about 30 days; at 22-24° C, it takes only about 15 days. Its thermal requirements are listed in the table.
High water requirements.
Parsley can adapt to any kind of soil if it is rich, loose and drains well; it prefers a pH of 6-6.5. The position of parsley in rotations varies, but it must not be planted in soil where parsley or other Umbellifers (celery, fennel, carrot…) have grown for at least 2-3 years. In organic agriculture, it is often used as a companion crop for tomato, asparagus and corn to attract parasitic hymenoptera of harmful moth larvae.
Varieties and/or commercial types
var. typicum : common parsley, with small leaves
var. latifolium : giant parsley, a tall and strong plant; its leaves have long stalks and large lobes, similar to celery leaves
var. crispum : curly parsley, with ruffling foliar lobes, not very aromatic (used mainly as garnish)
var. tuberosum: root parsley, with large and fleshy taproot
Fundamentals of cultivation practices
Sowing can be broadcast (about 1-2 g of seed/m2) or in rows 20-30 cm apart (0.2-0.3 g of seed/linear meter). Seeds must be very near the soil surface (5 mm); to favor germination and emergence, soil can be covered with non-woven fabric. After emerging, plants must be thinned so that they are 15 cm apart.
Transplanting is done in rows that are 25-30 cm apart; plants should be planted at a 15-20 cm distance from one another in each row.