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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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parsley Petroselinum crispum, the most popular herb in European cookery. In the Middle East it is added so abundantly to various dishes that it takes on the role of a vegetable. Further east, it loses its pre-eminent place to the related plant coriander (sometimes called Chinese or Japanese parsley, and similar in appearance although not flavour).

Parsley is an umbelliferous plant native to the E. Mediterranean area (Linnaeus believed that its origin was in Sardinia) and related to celery, with which it has occasionally formed hybrids. The ancient Greeks used the name selinon for both parsley and celery, and only occasionally bothered to distinguish parsley as petroselinon, meaning ‘rock’ celery or parsley. Later the Romans used the word apium in a similarly ambiguous way. Thus it is difficult to tell which is meant. However, the Greek writer Theophrastus, writing before 300 bc, describes curly-leafed and flat-leafed varieties of parsley similar to the two main modern types.