Our word "parsley" is a corruption of two Latin words, petros and selinon, meaning "rock" and "celery" respectively. Dioscorides (a Greek Physician of the early Roman Empire) is said to have given the plant the name "petroselinum". The scientific name is Petroselinum crispum.
Parsley has been known as an herb for a very long time. It originally grew wild near the Mediterranean. It was in use by the Greeks before recorded history. The Greeks dedicated the plant to Persephone (Greek goddess of spring as well, paradoxically, of the underworld). Greek Mythology held that parsley sprang from the blood of the forerunner of death, Archemorus. It was made into wreaths and hung on ancient tombs and was also used to crown the victors at the Isthmian Games (rather like the Olympic games, but held in off years in Greece).
Because of its association with death, parsley was also used for burial rituals. Later, Christianity carried on this tradition by associating Parsley with the Apostle Peter because of his designation as warder of the gates of heaven.
The ancient Greeks and Romans did not commonly eat parsley. However, they did grow it in their gardens as a border, and it was thought to be wonderful fodder for chariot horses.
Parsley was appreciated for its medicinal properties long before it became accepted as a food or spice. It probably was first commonly eaten in Europe in the middle ages. Charlemagne is known to have grown quantities of it for this purpose in his gardens before the end of the first mellenium.
Because it is easily confused with false-parsley (which is a noxious weed), the flat leafed variety was not quick to catch on. However, the curly leafed variety soon found its way to plates and dishes. As it has the ability to cleans the breath and the palate, it was soon comonly used as a garnish.
Today parsley is found in a wide variety of dishes. It is sold commercially both fresh and dried.
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