Parsley itself is a very common herb, whose leaves are often used as a spice. Parsley originated in Iran, known sometimes as Pars, a shortening of Persia, which gave it its name. Parsley root is a variety of parsley grown specifically for the root, rather than the leaves. It is known by a number of names, including Hamburg parsley, Dutch parsley, rock selinen, rock parsley, padrushka, turnip-rooted parsley, heimischer, and parsnip-rooted parsley.
Parsley root is very popular throughout Central Europe as a root vegetable, and may replace celeriac, parsnips, turnips, or carrots in dishes. In the United States it is fairly uncommon, but more and more specialty markets are starting to carry it. As it expands in the United States, some seed stores are even beginning to stock a range of different cultivars.
In Europe, where parsley root has been used for hundreds of years as a staple of cuisine, there are many different cultivars. Some of the most common are Halblange Perfekta, Halflange Omega, Bartowich Long, Hanacka, Halblange Fakir, Dobra, Atika, Lange, Jadran, Orbis, Hamburg, and Olomoucka dlouha. The two most common in the United States are Bartowich Long and Fakir.
Parsley root likes to be planted anytime from early spring on into summer, and like most root vegetables takes a while to mature. It is usually ready a bit over three months after being planted, particularly if planted in loose soil with a pH between 6.3 and 6.6.
In appearance, parsley root is most similar to the parsnip. It is long and tapered, but is more pale and white than parsnips, which have a yellower cast to them. This root is, in fact, a type of parsley, and so will sprout parsley leaves above the root, which can be used in the same fashion as curly leaf parsley, although the flavor is not quite the same.
The flavor of the parsley root itself is quite different from parsnips, in spite of the similar appearance and the coincidentally similar name. It is very nutty, with hints of carrot sweetness to it. People cook it in any number of ways, as with most root vegetables. They make excellent stock vegetables, but can also be fried, baked, saut&eaccent;ed, or even sliced and served cold.
Many people like to combine parsley root with parsley itself, bringing parsley out of its common role in American cuisine as a garnish, to the more center-stage role it has in Europe. Parsley soups are particularly popular, with a puree of the root and leaves making a nice creamy soup, with a thick body and the gentle, yet readily-identifiable, flavor of parsley.