Parsley: Nature’s Vitamin?
Petroselinum crispum, parsley is best known for its use as a garnish to flatter serving dishes, but it is far more than that! It is chock full of nutrients such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins A, C and some of the B’s. Unfortunately, ninety percent of parsley is used to decorate plates and ultimately discarded. A cup of parsley contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange, more calcium than a cup of milk, more beta-carotene than a carrott, and twenty times as much iron as a serving of liver. Another important attribute is its chlorophyll, which makes your breath “kissing sweet”. It is a much cheaper breath mint than the store bought varieties.
The ancient Greeks used the roots and seeds of this herb for their diuretic effect. Today’s herbalists also recommend a tea made from the leaves to accelerate the excretion of toxins. CAUTION: parsley contains the essential oil apiole, which can stimulate uterine contraction. Pregnant women should not eat large amounts of parsley. Cooking quantities are acceptable, of course.
Colonial Americans used parsley in soups, salads, and blended with butter. The flowers were used to decorate their main dishes in the same way that we utilize the leaves today. Housewives in every New England cottage, western log cabin, and southern plantation had a “kitchen garden” which included parsley along with other cooking herbs. They knew how to dress up bland and even spoiled foods. They made parsley tea to relieve gas and nausea.
Parsley has a gentle piny aroma and flavor. The flat or Italian variety is considered tastier by some and it stands up better to heat in cooked dishes. It complements potatoes, pasta, soups, meats, casseroles, vegetables and cheese dishes. Curly parsley is not as aromatic but it keeps well and has a lovely ruffled appearance. It is very suitable in salads and cold dishes. I use both varieties and suggest you decide which you prefer for the dish you are preparing. Remember, our taste buds are different and variety is the “spice of life”. Add some fresh parsley at the end of preparation because the flavor dissipates with cooking. In fact, I use fresh “herb toppers” whenever possible to emphasize the herbs in the dish being prepared.
Parsley is essential in several international herb blends. Bouquet garni is a combination of fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf and is utilized to flavor soups, stews, and sauces. Persillade is the French name for fresh parsley minced with shallotts, garlic or scallions. It is added to sautés, grilled meats and poultry at the last moment of cooking. It is also delicious on strong vegetables such as cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Gremolata is an Italian paste made with parsley, garlic, lemon and orange zest. It is excellent with pasta, poultry and fish. Fines Herbes is a French mixture of parsley, chervil, thyme and tarragon. The fresh herbs are minced and added to sautés, cheese sauces and eggs dishes. Salsa Verde is a piquant sauce of fresh herbs served with seafood and eggs (see recipes)
Cultivation of parsley in Tehachapi is simply done by sowing seeds after frost danger is past and the soil temperature is at least 50 F. Seeds are slow to germinate, but watering with warm water may speed things along. Small plants can be used, but the taproot must be kept intact. I am an impatient gardener so I purchase small plants from Burpee. Parsley is a biennial and goes to seed in its second year. I often find plants in locations where they were not sown, so I know they spread by seed. I allow some to go to seed for this purpose, and because the dried seeds have an intense flavor. Harvest parsley by cutting to the bottom of each stem. This includes the flower stalks. Weed thoroughly because it is subject to crown rot and insect infestations. It grows to some degree all year long, even with snow lying upon it. My husband likes its winter flavor best of all.
The soil should be richer than the usual herb gardening mix. Combine two parts of each potting soil, peat, and compost with one part sand. It requires more water than many other herbs. Six hours in morning to early afternoon sun is its happiest position, and will decrease the amount of water needed. It is a good companion plant for asparagus, tomatoes and roses because it repels some beetles and flies.
Store parsley in the refrigerator with its stems in a glass of water and covered with a plastic bag. It can also be washed, wrapped in paper towels and stored in plastic wrap. Wash and freeze the leaves for long term use. You may also dry it, but the flavor will not be as vibrant.
Parsley is an outstanding kitchen herb with a broad spectrum of uses. This multivitamin from the garden should not be relegated to the position of a disposable garnish! Eat it, enjoy it and benefit from it! Contact me at www.herbbasket.net with your parsley favorites. I hope this column motivates you to spring into action with petroselinum crispum your first herb plant this 2018 growing season.
Three cloves finely chopped garlic
Two cups finely chopped parsley
One tablespoon finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme, sage, and dill)
Four tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of one large lemon
Two teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend first three ingredients. Add the oil, a little at a time. Mix well. Blend in remaining ingredients.
Serve with fish, poultry and with eggs dishes.
Two tablespoons of finely mince garlic, shallots or scallions
Four tablespoons of chopped parsley
Mix ingredients. Serve with grilled meats, poultry and strong vegetables. Add to sauté.
Two cups washed, chopped parsley leaves
Two finely diced shallots or garlic cloves
One half cup heavy cream
One cup cream cheese
Two tablespoons lemon or lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Small sliced tomatoes (optional)
Serve on crackers, or crusty bread. Top each with a tomato slice if you like.