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Parsley is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region (southern Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia), naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as a herb, spice, and a vegetable.
Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.
Parsley is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. In central Europe, eastern Europe and southern Europe, as well as in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Root parsley is very common in central, eastern and southern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles.
The word "parsley" is a merger of the Old English petersilie (which is identical to the contemporary German word for parsley: Petersilie) and the Old French peresil, both derived from Medieval Latin petrosilium, from Latin petroselinum,[which is the latinization of the Greek πετροσέλινον (petroselinon), "rock-celery", from πέτρα (petra), "rock, stone",+ σέλινον (selinon), "celery".
Mycenaean Greek se-ri-no, in Linear B, is the earliest attested form of the word selinon.
Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun. It grows best between 72–86 °F, and usually is grown from seed. Germination is slow, taking four to six weeks, and it often is difficult because of furanocoumarins in its seed coat. Typically, plants are grown for the leaf crop, also can be grown as a root crop
Parsley attracts several species of wildlife. Some swallowtail butterflies use parsley. Bees and other nectar-feeding insects also visit the flowers. Birds such as the goldfinch feed on the seeds.
The two main groups of parsley used as herbs are curly leaf (i.e.) (P. crispum crispum group; syn. P. crispum var. crispum) and Italian, or flat leaf (P. crispum neapolitanum group; syn. P. crispum var. neapolitanum); of these, the neapolitanum group more closely resembles the natural wild species. Flat-leaved parsley is preferred by some gardeners as it is easier to cultivate, being more tolerant of both rain and sunshine, and is said to have a stronger flavor though this is disputed, while curly leaf parsley is preferred by others because of its more decorative appearance in garnishing. A third type, sometimes grown in southern Italy, has thick leaf stems resembling celery.
Another type of parsley is grown as a root vegetable, the Hamburg root parsley (P. crispum radicosum group, syn. P. crispum var. tuberosum). This type of parsley produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves. Although seldom used in Britain and the United States, root parsley is common in central and eastern European cuisine, where it is employed in soups and stews, or just eaten raw, as a snack (similar to carrots).
Although root parsley looks similar to the parsnip, which is among its closest relatives in the family Apiaceae, its taste is quite different.
Parsley is widely used in Middle Eastern, European, Brazilian and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. Green parsley is used frequently as a garnish on potato dishes (boiled or mashed potatoes), on rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), on fish, fried chicken, lamb, goose, and steaks, as well in meat or vegetable stews (including shrimp creole, beef bourguignon, goulash, or chicken paprikash).
Parsley is a source of flavonoid and antioxidants, especially luteolin, apigenin, folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A.