​Herb of the Year Criteria

The  International Herb Association established National Herb Week in 1991 and every year since 1995 they have chosen an Herb Of The Year.  The Herb Of The Year must fulfill its mandate by being useful in 2 out of  3 categories:  Medicinal, Culinary or Decorative. 

 The original use of herbs was for medicine.  In ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Assyria the treatment of diseases was performed by the use of herbs and spices either ingested or used as a poultice, salve, balm or the ancient word 'nard.'   Arcane herbal knowledge has come down to us through the generations and today we look to the past finding out  how our ancestors  used herbs on a daily basis to keep their households healthy and happy.  Here in San Antonio we are part of an ancient native American culture that used herbs for healing and in food preparation daily. There is no substitute for clipping a handful of  fresh herbs from your garden  or a pot on your kitchen window adding flavor and freshness to your dinner table and in so doing improving our health and linking us to centuries of herbal knowledge.

What Is An Herb?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an herb is defined as a "(1) seed plant that lacks woody tissue and dies to the ground at the end of a growing season.  (2) A plant or plant part valued for medicinal or savory qualities."  The value of the plant can be in its leaves, stems, seeds or root.  They are valued and harvested for their flavor, healthful qualities, fragrance or dye.  Examples such as mint, oregano, cilantro and basil are harvested for their leaves which we primarily use in our kitchens.  Spices are the woody parts or seeds of herbaceous plants. Examples are caraway, fennel, sesame, black pepper and cinnamon.

Herb of the Year 2021

Parsley - Petrosilinum crispum

Family:  Apiaceae

Three species of biennials belong to this European Genus.  Parsley, petrosilinum crispum whether curly or flat, is one of the world's most popular herbs and has been in cultivation in Europe for almost 2000 years.  It is possibly the most widely used herb around the world.  It is easily cultivated and can be sown by seed in intervals from early spring to early fall.  Parsley likes to live in moderately moist, but not wet, well drained, good garden loam with a slightly acidic pH.  It is a perfect plant for container cultivation and can be sown directly into the pot or container where you wish it to grow.  Full sun of course...water well in our south central Texas killer summer heat.

We have been using parsley for over 2000 years and a curly variety became quite popular in Roman kitchens in 42 AD rapidly gaining favor with Roman chefs because of its pleasing appearance.  That did not please everyone, as the Roman physician Pliny the Elder complained that parsley was in every sauce and salad!  The variety neopolitanum which is sometimes referred to by nursery growers as flat leafed or Italian parsley has a stronger flavor than its curly leafed cousin and will hold its flavor when used in stronger mediteranean recipes. 

The essential oil of parsley of any variety can be toxic so caveat emptor.  It is interesting that the chemical composition of its essential oil differs between leaves and seeds, but the fresh herb is definitely the best way to get the benefits of vitamins A, C and E.  The plant is also rich in iron and contains apigenin a flavonoid that reduces allergic responses and acts as an anti-oxidant.

The third variety of parsley is crispum var. tuberosum or parsley root.  Though  available in N. American produce departments, it is not   well known whereas in Germany the root parsley has been cultivated and used in many recipes since the 1600's. 

In medieval Europe parsley was an essential plant in monastery herb gardens.  It was widely used for all ailments associated with the liver and kidneys, including bladder infections, gout, jaundice and edema (swelling).  A poultice of parsley leaves was a remedy for sprains, bruises, swellings and insect bites.  People also freshened their breath by chewing parsley leaves, a custom still followed today to get rid of the smell of garlic.  In modern phyto-medicine, parsley is used for its diuretic properties.  It Also used to clear kidney stones, ease rheumatic conditions and clear waste products that aggravate muscle aches and stiffness.

Mango Parsley Smoothie

In a blender combine 1/2 fresh peeled mango (about 6-7 chunks if frozen)

1/2 cup fresh washed parsley either curly or flat leafed

2 cups of cold fresh water

Blend until smooth. 

If you have a sweet tooth, add 1/2 a banana and another 1/2 cup of water

Lentil Soup with Parsley & Bay

1 1/2 cup dried lentils

8 cups water, vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups tomatoes, chopped (fresh or canned)

2 medium potatoes peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk finely chopped

1 zucchini diced

2 whole fresh bay leaves

2 TBL fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp honey

1/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

2 cups small pasta shells, or elbows

Rinse lentils in cold water

Place all ingredients except pasta and parsley in heavy pot and bring to boil.  Cover & reduce heat, simmer 45 minutes till lentils are tender.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.  When soup is done stir in pasta and parsley.  Remove and discard bay leaves.

Will serve 6 - garnish soup with additional chopped parsley.


Remember when dining out, do not leave that garnish on the plate, munch it up - it's good for you

Soooo, nutritious and delicious !!