Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Parsley is a native of southeast Europe and west Asia; its name comes from the Greek and means “rock celery.” Petroselinum crispum is one of the most important herbs in European cooking, perhaps because its distinctive flavor (from menthatriene) is accompanied by fresh, green, woody notes that are somewhat generic and therefore complement many foods. When parsley is chopped, its distinctive note fades, the green notes become dominant, and a faintly fruity note develops. There are both curly- and flat-leaf varieties with different characteristics; the flat leaves have a strong parsley flavor when young and later develop a woody note, while curly leaves start out mild and woody and develop the parsley character when more mature. The curly leaves are smaller and more incised and therefore crisp faster when fried.