Like carrots and celery, parsley is a member of the Umbelliferae family; but unlike carrots and celery, parsley is not considered a staple vegetable. It is a culinary herb--the most popular in the world--used mostly as a garnish.
Cultivated for more than 2,500 years, using parsley as a garnish goes as far back as the ancient Romans. Prior to that, it was considered for medicinal purposes.
Pedanius Dioscorides (circa 40—90 AD), Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist touted parsley seeds as a diuretic and an aid in relieving abdominal discomforts.
Indeed, today we know parsley can help in removing toxins from the body, speed healing of bruises, treat respiratory infections, remove or inactivate free radicals, aid in break up of kidney stones, and lessen inflammation. It is also regarded as an excellent "nerve stimulant" and used in many energy drinks.
Parsley's volatile oil components (myristicin, limonene, eugenol, alpha-thujene) have been shown to inhibit tumor formation and have anti-cancer effects.
The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat-leaf parsley. A third type, Hamburg root parsley, has thick, celery-like leaf stems and is used mostly in Eastern and Central European dishes.
- has green, compact, furled leaves
- used as a color-giving garnish for various dishes such as mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, legumes, fish, poultry, stews, lamb, and/or vegetables
Italian flat-leaf variety, compared to curly:
- has darker, smooth leaves
- is more fragrant with a less bitter taste
- contains more essential oils
- adds effective flavor and decoration to soups, salads, sauces, vegetables, beef, and chicken
Rich in chlorophyll and carotenes, parsley is a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, and iron. Included among the minerals it contains are magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Parsley also contains flavonoids apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.
Quick serving ideas
Parsley is available year round. Also note that both the leaves and stems are edible.
- To make the classic Middle Eastern dish tabbouleh, combine chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, chopped garlic, mint leaves, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Use chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest together to make a rub for chicken, lamb, or beef.
- Add chopped parsley to a sliced tomato salad along with a pinch of basil or try it on top of scrambled eggs or an omelette with other fine herbs.
- It is great with lunch meat for a sandwich filling or with a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Beat chives and parsley together with butter as a spread for french bread or flavoring in mashed potatoes, pasta, corn on the cob, or other vegetables.
- A salad of chopped fennel, orange, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and parsley leaves is a pretty fall dish.
See: German Commission E