Saturday, September 22, 2018

Variety Spotlight - Cilician Parsley

I've been trying to write this post for ages and as I've been going through a big bagful of dried Cilician parsley seed heads to renew my stash of seeds I figured that it's finally time to get the post done.

Cilician Parsley

Cilicia was a tiny medieval kingdom in coastal Armenia, an area which is now in Turkey and Syria. The kingdom was in existence from only 1198 to 1375. It is thought that this particular parsley has its origins in medieval Cilicia, however the Cilician parsley that is grown today isn't cultivated in that region anymore. The Cilician parsley that is grown today came from Cyprus. The seeds were brought to the US in 1965 by a Cypriot who settled in Astoria, New York. He obtained his seeds from a relative in Templos which is on the north coast of Cyprus, which lies to the south of the once-upon-a-time coast of Cilicia. Cilicia and Cyprus shared a lot of cultural and political ties in the middle ages and Templos was apparently an innovative agricultural center. Many Near Eastern foods were introduced to Europe by the order of monks who inhabited the village starting in the early 14th century and the story goes that this unusual parsley from Cilicia was one of the introductions. It's so interesting to me to think of the journey that this herb has made from medieval gardens in the eastern Mediterranean to New York and eventually to my garden in California.

This parsley is a flat leaf variety with a superficial resemblance to the rather less unusual Italian Flat Leaf parsley. Actually, there are a number of flat leaf parsleys available and many of them are not Italian, but that's another story. Cilican parsley stands out in comparison to other flat leaf parsleys that I've grown (including Italian, Turkish, Macedonian, and Einfachschnitt 2). It is noticeably more delicate with overall smaller plants, more delicate leaves and stems, more fern-like cut leaves, and an aromatic complex flavor. I detect hints of nutmeg and think the flavor is less "green" than other parsleys.

Cilician parsley will tolerate shade and perhaps prefers it in warmer climates. It is well suited to growing in my mild climate with or without some shade. I have sown seeds from winter through summer with success. The plants resist bolting but a few always seem to so I cull those to be sure that I save seeds from the most resistant plants. I have found that it makes a good companion planting with long producing sprouting broccoli, the broccoli provides a bit of shade for the parsley and the parsley protects the roots of the broccoli. Winter and spring sown plants can produce for over a year in my mild climate with some attention to harvesting. The plants will decline if allowed to get overgrown but will rebound if they are cut back hard and will respond to a good hard trim a few times through the growing season.

Cilician Parsley and Batavia Broccoli

But the primary reason why Cilician parsley has become my parsley of choice is that it is hands down the best tasting parsley that I've ever grown. This parsley makes superb parsley centric dishes like Tabbouli or Italian Salsa Verde. I love to use large quantities of it in salads. And of course it can be used as you would any other flat leaf parsley.

The source for the history of this herb that I've presented here is an article by William Woys Weaver which was published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a number of years ago. The article doesn't seem to be available anymore but you can read a transcribed version of it on a forum on davesgarden.com. I highly recommend reading it because I just included some highlights here and the rest of the story is fascinating.

It's a shame that this parsley isn't more widely known and grown. If you are interested in growing Cilician parsley you can find seeds at Adaptive Seeds and I might be persuaded to share a few starter packets from my limited stash. I don't save seeds for this parsley every year because it takes about 18 months to go from sowing to saving. So I hope you will understand that I'm not overly generous because my stash has to last me a few years. My original seeds came from William Woys Weaver through the Seed Savers Exchange but he no longer offers this variety through the exchange and neither does any other member.


1 comment:

  1. I love reading about the history of certain varieties, and William Woys weaver sure knows how to tell a story! I think Adaptive Seeds has a lot of interesting stuff, and I'm growing several things from there this year including the Einfach Schnitt 3 parsley. Cilician sounds like a good choice for pesto too.

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