Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum
Pharmacopeial name: Petroselini herba/radix
Parts Used: Taproot, leaf, seed
Wrongly relegated to a garnish alone by many herbalists and cooks, parsley actually has a wonderfully savoury and herbaceous flavour, making it a fabulous culinary and healing foundation. Parsley is perhaps the most underestimated herb in Nature’s Apothecary.
Parsley is so well known and common that its contribution to cooking is often overlooked. It comes to the palate very cleanly, without the distraction of complexity.
The high concentrations of chlorophyll in the fresh leaves does wonders for any dish that needs to taste herbal without obscuring other flavours in the dish. It is also the reason why we study Parsley first as no other herb will give you a better understanding of how a herb can harmonize a dish and how to use copious amounts of fresh herbs.
A good theater production always has one good understudy who can play any role. Parsley has this role in your kitchen apothecary and cooking. Under your guidance it can fill the leading role or it can be a supporting actor. It is also the perfect teacher of the savoir faire (know-how) of using fresh herbs liberally, and of using herbs to complement the other ingredients in a dish. Not to mention its contribution to a healthy diet. No family herbalist can do without parsley.
Many cuisines have discovered parsley’s cooking virtues. Creole cuisines use it liberally to add a herbal lift to otherwise heavy recipes. Married to celery, onion, and bell pepper in fairly hefty amounts, it comprises the vegetable base of many gumbos. Italians too use its virtues in rich tomato sauces and even in more delicate seafood preparations.
Aroma: Fresh leaves raw – a clean green aroma. Fresh leaves cooked – incognito. Dried leaves – I thought we cleared that one up.
Taste: A versatile fresh green taste. Slightly peppery. At times a little like celery. An aftertaste of green apple. Fresh leaves cooked – faintly fresh, still slightly peppery.
Strength: A mild herb that does not stand up well to long cooking periods.
When to Add: Unless the recipe states otherwise, parsley is best stirred in at the last minute in cooked dishes. Brief heating brings out the flavour and aroma but as it cooks longer it becomes limp and loses colour as well as flavour and vitality. In some dishes copious amounts of Italian parsley are cooked for extended periods – almost like a vegetable.
How Much to Add: Parsley is a well-mannered and polite herb that will compliment and not overpower other herbs and ingredients. In fact, as we’ve noted before, it often brings out the best in other herbs and ingredients. Use it generously, up to a tablespoon of chopped leaves per portion.
Flavour Pals: Being the versatile herb it is parsley is pals with almost any other herb, spice or seasoning you can think of. Having said that, here’s our shortlist of best pals: basil, bay leaf, capers, chervil, chilies, chives, dill, garlic, lemon balm, marjoram and oregano, mint, pepper, rosemary, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, watercress.
Matches Made in Heaven: Parsley’s strength is that it can be used freely with almost anything savoury. If you ignore it because other herbs seem trendier you are depriving your cooking of a powerful flavouring ingredient. When you add a handful of parsley to a dish at the end of cooking the emerald specks make the dish look livelier while adding an elusive layer of flavour that can only be described as herbal and green.
Here’s our ingredients shortlist: cheese (soft cheeses), chicken, eggplant, eggs, fish, game, lentils, mushrooms, mussels, pasta, peas, potatoes, poultry, rice, seafood, snails, tomatoes, and zucchini. The dishes shortlist include: omelettes, salads, sauces, soups, stews, and most vegetables.
Contribution to a Healthy Diet
Nutritional Value: Parsley is perhaps the only herb used in quantities that is sufficient to actually contribute to the nutritional value of your diet. If you’re looking for a natural multivitamin and mineral supplement, look no further than parsley. Of the 23 most essential nutrients our bodies need, parsley offers 20! The three that are lacking are Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and the mineral Selenium.
Furthermore, parsley contains no saturated fats and no cholesterol.
It is a good source of protein, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorous and Zinc.
Parsley is also a very good source of Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
One cup of fresh parsley will give you:
• Just 22 calories.
• 1% of your daily requirement of fat.
• No cholesterol.
• 34mg Sodium (salt) or 1% of your daily requirement.
• 4g carbohydrates or 1% of your daily requirement.
• 2g fibre or 8% of your daily requirement.
• Less than 1g sugar.
• 2g protein.
• 101% of your daily requirement of vitamin A.
• 133% of your daily requirement of vitamin C.
• 8% of your daily requirement of calcium.
• 21% of your daily requirement of iron.
Note: The above percentages of your daily requirements have been based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your personal needs may be different. The source we used for this data is www.nutritiondata.com.
Diuretic, emmenagogue, carminative, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, hypotensive.
• Support your immune system.
• Detoxify your body.
• Relieve water retention.
• Provide relief from premenstrual tension.
• Help to reduce flatulence and colic.
• Improve bad breath.
• Relieve some allergies.
Medicinally, the herb has three main areas of usage. First, it is an effective diuretic that helps the body eliminate excess water, and it may be used whenever such an action is desired. It is also an emmenagogue, used to stimulate the menstrual process. (See the Safety Note below). Finally, it has value as a carminative to ease flatulence and accompanying colic pains.
Infusion: 1 tablespoon fresh herb, or 1 teaspoon dried herb, in 150 ml water, three times daily
Safety Note: Do not use parsley in medicinal doses during pregnancy – but it is safe to consume parsley in your cooking.
Now it’s Your Turn
What are your favourite uses of parsley? Which uses do you want to try next? Share both of them in a reply below.