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Parsley - More than Just a Pretty Garnish

By Alana Sugar, February 15, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
parsley I don't remember eating a lot of fresh herbs when I was a kid. In fact, I don't remember anybody eating them, but what I do remember was the "little green tree" that would come as a garnish on my restaurant plate. And I also remember pushing that odd little tree to the side of the plate, never to be eaten. Then one day, I decided to venture into the land of mystery. What was this thing? What would happen to me if I ate it? I reasoned that if it was on my plate and touching my food then, by golly, I ought to be able to eat it and live to tell the tale, right? To be on the safe side, I checked with mom, who gave the go-ahead, and I dug in. Not bad, and even better when dipped into my Thousand Island salad dressing! I'm guessing parsley is, by far, the most recognized and widely available of all fresh herbs. Whether you grow it on your windowsill, grow it in your garden or buy it at the market, parsley is the savior of many a boring platter! But did you know that besides adding color, flavor and texture to a meal, parsley has its own set of health benefits? According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, fresh parsley delivers:
  • vitamin C and vitamin K
  • natural plant compounds such as flavonoids and limonene
  • volatile oils and potent antioxidants that benefit digestion
  • carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein
A special note: pregnant women should avoid excessive amounts of parsley. There are two kinds of parsley: curly and Italian. Use them interchangeably, but remember that curly parsley is milder and works well as a garnish. Italian (flat-leaf parsley) is stronger, thicker and heartier and is best for longer cooking, stewing and simmering. To maximize those health benefits, aim for a 1/3 cup serving. Here are some ideas for cooking with parsley:
  • Add to your favorite soups and stews
  • linguinipesto
  • Replace some of the basil in your favorite pesto recipe; try this Whole Wheat Linguini with Green Pea Pesto.
  • Add to whole grain salads made from brown rice, wild rice or quinoa. Try one of these:
  • Mix into tuna, egg, potato or chicken salad
  • Make a spring pea salad with spring peas, chopped green onion, chopped fresh parsley, minced celery and minced red pepper. Toss with your favorite mayonnaise or buttermilk dressing.
  • Mince and add to meatballs.
  • catfish_parsley_salad
  • Mix into a topping for fish, such as this Catfish with Parsley and Tomato Salad.
  • Sprinkle over potatoes, casseroles, main dishes and vegetable salads
  • Add to spaghetti sauce, white sauce, wine sauce or any sauce (can be an ingredient or a garnish)
  • Stir into dips, herb butters and cheese spreads
  • Drink it as a tea, hot or cold: Add 2 tablespoons of minced parsley to 1 cup boiling water. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
Here are a couple of options to keep parsley fresh as long as possible; try them and see what works best for you:
  • Fill a glass with water and treat your parsley like a bouquet of flowers - snip off a little of the stem ends and place in water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Change the water every few days. Cut and use as needed, washing before use.
  • OR
  • Wash, dry well, wrap in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
If your recipe calls for dried parsley and you want to use fresh, here's a good rule of thumb: Use about three times more fresh than dried. Add more or less, depending on your taste buds. Oh, and be sure to check your teeth after indulging - your pearly whites are a favorite hide-out for just about anything edible and green, with parsley topping the list, along with spinach! Got a favorite recipe or great idea for using parsley? I'd love to hear!

 

14 Comments

Comments

Melinda Neely says ...
When I traveled to San Sebastian, Spain, years ago, I was amazed to see fresh parsley with everything they served. Given the simplicity with which the Basques prepare food in this region of the world, I realized how much wonderful flavor parsley imparts on high quality, fresh food, especially sauteed mushrooms!
02/16/2010 1:50:13 PM CST
Louetta Schulze says ...
I make a vegetable smoothie every day for my lunch ---- & ALWAYS had a handful of parsley. It is good & healthy as well. I have had kidney stones in the past & it is supposed dto help w/ K.... stones NOT forming. & parsley is a pretty preventive medicine!! (I make a fruit smoothie in the am as well.) Louetta Schulze
02/17/2010 4:21:49 PM CST
Pat Rodgers says ...
My studets were always fascinated to hear that parsley could be used as a breath freshener after a meal. Parsley also cleanses the palate after the main course of a meal.
02/17/2010 8:57:55 PM CST
Twyla Grace says ...
For those of us who don't like cilantro, and especially in pica de guillo, use parsley instead! It's terrific!
02/17/2010 9:29:22 PM CST
Anastasia Pantsios says ...
When I was a kid, I was the one who ate the parsley off everyone else's plate. To me it was always the most delicious part of the meal. Now I grow tons of it.
02/17/2010 9:40:04 PM CST
Stephanie Pough,ND says ...
I agree completely. Parsley is an awesome herb! I place mine in the juicer with other veggies and ingest a few leaves after a large consumption of garlic (it tones the breathe down :)alot). Medicinally, parsley is also an effective diuretic, helping the body to get rid of excess water, and so may be used wherever such an effect is desired (under medical supervision of course). However, one should always remember, that the cause of the problem must be sought and treated. Thus, do not just treat the symptoms!
02/17/2010 10:42:01 PM CST
Darlene McNeill says ...
Growing up, my grandmother always said that if you have 'garlic' breathe after eating, eat some parsley plain and it will freshen breathe!
02/18/2010 6:11:05 AM CST
Lois says ...
Many years ago, at a church choir dinner held at an upscale restaurant, the lady sitting next to me pointed to the parsley on our plates and said, "That's the most nutritious item on our plates." That intrigued me, and since then I have always eaten the green garnishes -- be they parsley, kale, or cabbage. I also make liberal use of parsley in my cooking.
02/18/2010 9:18:47 AM CST
Suzanne C says ...
My cat loves fresh greens. When I ran out of his catgrass (wheatgrass), he started chomping on my parsley plant.
02/18/2010 9:45:43 AM CST
Rhonda Gendron Murphy says ...
Make pesto with it, by itself or with other herbs or greens. Also dip in boiling water with water cress and puree in a blender with other cooked vegetales and some broth and(optional) some cream, season with salt and pepper, ladle in a soup plate , over pieces of cooked sea scallops.. as an appettiser..
02/18/2010 10:08:39 AM CST
Traci B says ...
I always get compliments on my tossed salads. My secret ingredient? Flat leaf parsley. I chop it it really fine and toss it with my other ingredients. It adds a freshness to the aroma and flavor.
02/18/2010 2:37:28 PM CST
Eszter says ...
I'm so happy parsley is starting to get recognized! Given that I'm European I use parsley for almost every dish I make! Parsley makes everything taste better. From fresh fingerlings with coarse salt to spring snap-pea soup.. Add it at the end of your cooking process as to keep its fresh flavor. Take 2 bunches of parsley and chop it up loosely. Add the seeds of a pomegranate and squeeze a half of an orange as dressing. You may add thinly sliced meyer lemons or a few komquats if you like a more tangy flavour. Unfortunately the season of komquats and pomegranates overlap only a few weeks, but enjoy while it lasts! Serve it with toasted whole grain topped with Crotin de Chavignol. Enjoy!
02/19/2010 4:30:32 PM CST
KateC says ...
My recipe is for Whole Dogs. Puppies and dogs love this food, and it is packed with nutrients. Remember, don't add salt or flavorings to the dog's food. (I am reluctant to feed a raw diet and I'm cautious about garlic, as digestive upsets are no fun for anybody.) Shred a few carrots and one-half bunch of parsley. Brown organic, lean ground beef or turkey (ground chicken will work, if the dog tolerates it well.) Cook a small serving of old-fashioned whole oats (plain, or with 1-2 tablespoons of powdered milk) or brown rice. Add one-third cup per pound of meat to the pan. Heat meat, grains and 2 tablespoons of water to boiling. Turn the heat to low immediately; mix in 1/3 c. raw, shredded carrots 1/4 c. finely chopped parsley per pound of meat. Within a half-minute remove the mixture from heat. Do not add salt, garlic or flavorings to the food. Grated apple, in a small quantity, will sweeten the food. Cool and store in the freezer, for optimal freshness. Food may be given once a day and supplemented by a good, balanced organic kibble. It can be mixed into kibble, or served on top.
02/22/2010 3:13:51 PM CST
Jo says ...
Hello, I also do love parsely. I grew up growing it in my grandmother's garden, so I'm pretty familiar with it. I sprinkle almost every meal and salad with it. It makes such a taste difference and at the same time it is good for your body. Try using it in the chicken soup. It's great.
02/25/2010 4:16:55 PM CST