Oh sure, it looks like it is just a garnish. It looks like it might be innocent and green and… and… green. But it’s not. It’s the Herb of the DEVIL! *Cue creepy music for effect* Oh yes, save the souls of the virgins in your house. Lock the children far away. The parsley is coming to get you all.
With all the superstition that surrounds this innocuous herb, I am genuinely amazed that this mainstay of kitchens and fish decorations even made it past the 13th century as a culinary additive.
Parsley’s bad rap began in Ancient Greece where it was believed that parsley sprang from the spilled blood of a child named Opheltes after he was accidentally shredded by Jupiter’s Serpent. As consolation for this fate, Opheltes got to become Archemorus, the God of Getting Close to Death. The rest of us got parsley. I am of the opinion that we got the better end of the deal.
From there forward, the Greeks used the herb for funerals. While the whole “little kid getting killed so now it is a sad thing for funerals” is a nice cover story, the real reason the Greeks probably used parsley at funerals was because it is an effective odor neutralizer due to its high chlorophyll content.
Supposedly, a little while later, the Romans, who were far more interested in sex than death, used parsley during orgies in order to mask the smell of alcohol on their breath.
Eventually, parsley became a polite euphanisim for female genitalia due to the fact that someone (probably a man who was too long from his wife’s bed) thought that a patch of parsley bore a resemblance to pubic hair.
Anytime you associate an object with both death and sex, eventually someone will say that it is the devil’s dealing. Parsley is no exception.
Superstitions eventually rose that virgins who planted parsley would become the mother of Satan’s child or that when you planted parsley seeds, you had to pour boiling water over the ground to drive the devil out or that parsley seeds must go to hell and back seven times before they would grow.
Parsley was also the hated by fairies. It is said that the ragged edges of the parsley plant come from the fact that fairies shred the leaves in anger because the home owner planted parsley instead of tulips.
On another amusing note, if parsley grows too well or not at all, this is a sign that the woman of the house ruled with an iron fist (probably the wife of the same guy who thought it looked like a woman’s crotch, come to think of it).
It is also believed that you should never give your parsley away. Instead, it is proper etiquette when sharing parsley to invite your friend to steal it, preferably at night and after the neighborhood police have made the rounds. The idea behind this was that parsley holds your luck inside it. If you give it away, your luck goes with it. But, if someone steals it, the luck stays. Don’t ask me why. If superstitions made sense, they probably wouldn’t be superstitions, now would they?
No matter what you believe about parsley in general, you have to admit one thing… You’d certainly have a devil of time making tabbouleh if you didn’t have any.