Parsley is an Ancient Culinary Herb, often Associated with Mediterranean and Classic French Cooking.
Parsley
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Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a member of the Apiaceae Family which also contains traditional herbs like Dill, Chervil, Anise, Caraway, Cicely, Cumin, Fennel, Coriander and vegetables like: Carrots, Parsnips and Celery where the genetic similarity is in the stems.

Parsley originated in the Mediterranean and western Asia and has been cultivated for over 2,000 years.  It is used worldwide and is particularly important in European cuisines. 

As for taste, one could almost call it the Switzerland of herbs, as it gets along well with nearly every other herb, while adding its own fresh green taste. As such, it is one of the Fine Herbs and an essential element of a Bouquet Garni, a bundle of herbs used to flavor stocks, soups and stews. 

In America, for many years Parsley was relegated to the side of the plate, locked in as only a garnish on an otherwise dull plate.  Thankfully, American cooking has started to catch up with the rest of the culinary world and now, as it should be, parsley is used in many ways—to flavor Stocks and Soups, in Sauces and Compound Butters, with meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, as a vegetable itself; or chopped and sprinkled on just before serving. 

Parsley has a well-deserved reputation as a palate cleanser and breath freshener, used between courses and to counter the lingering effects of garlic, onions and wine.

Season

Parsley may appear seasonless, but Parsley flourishes in the spring though it can be grown all year long in warmer climates. Parsley is considered a Spring Vegetable.

Availability

Parsley is available all year long due primarily to greenhouses and imports from warmer domestic areas.

Cultivation

Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two year life cycle, though many gardeners treat it as an annual.  Its seeds have a very long germination period, four to six weeks, and are helped somewhat by soaking beforehand. 

The curly variety fares a bit better in frosts, but Italian flat-leaf is a little easier to grow. Parsley is also widely used in gardens as a companion plant. Like many other members of the Apiaceae /Carrot family, it attracts predatory insects like wasps and predatory flies to gardens, which then tend to hunt nearby pests and in turn protect nearby plants. For more on growing your own Parsley, Herb Gardening.com has a good resource on Growing Parsley.

Varieties

When people say Parsley, they usually mean Leaf Parsley, used mostly as an herb, of which there are two main types—Curly Parsley and Italian Parsley (Flat-Leaf).  There are some differences in appearance and flavor but either one will do in a pinch. Each has its place in the kitchen.

A third variety called Parsley Root, also called Hamburg parsley, is quite different.  The root is what is eaten and its flavor a cross between Celery and parsley.

Chinese Parsley and Mexican Parsley are both parsley misnomers, nicknames really for Cilantro, also known as Coriander which is actually also in the Apiaceae family and looks similar but is still not a Parsley. Fool’s Parsley unfortunately also resembles Italian parsley.  It is a poisonous weed, a less potent relative of hemlock, and grows abundantly in England, often mixing itself in with Italian flat-leaf plants—which may account for the traditional English preference for Curly Parsley.

Purchasing

When buying fresh Parsley, look for strong, springy plants.  Avoid limp stems with brown-tinged cut ends or slimy leaves.  Italian Parsley should be a rich dark green, much darker than Curly Parsley.  Be wary of confusing Italian/Flat-leaf Parsley and Cilantro. It doesn’t help that most produce departments often place the two herbs near each other.  It is not much fun to arrive home with a lovely bunch of cilantro by mistake when you are planning an Osso Buco with its traditional Gremolata accompaniment, a mix of raw parsley, lemon and garlic.

Dried Parsley is very usable so buy it in in small amounts and run down your supply quickly.  Running through small amounts frequently is the best method because Dried Parsley loses its flavor fairly very rapidly. Look for Dried Parsley leaves with the most green color.

Storage

Fresh parsley should be stored by keeping it dry and refrigerated until use, either in a plastic bag or upright in a glass of water loosely covered with a plastic bag. Fresh Parsley should last 2-3 days in the refrigerator. It should not be frozen whole.

If it’s threatening to spoil, it can be preserved by chopping and freezing for a number of weeks.  It will retain most of its color and flavor and can be added to recipes directly from the freezer.

Culinary Uses

Leaf parsley is eaten fresh, dried and cooked.  Both leaves and stems of the plant are used, the leaves by far the most, though they can add a green color to the dish.  The stems are used in Stocks and some Sauces, as they add flavor without coloring the liquid green.The list of recipes that call for Parsley includes many traditional dishes and classic sauces—Tabbouleh, Pestos, Salsa Verde, Chimchurri, and Persillade Sauce to name a few.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 T of Parsley per recipe.

Substitutes

Chervil

Nutritional Value USDA
PARSLEY,FRSH
Amount Per 100g
Calories 36
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
2%
Sodium 56mg
11%
Potassium 554mg
2%
Total Carbohydrate 6g
12%
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Raw Parsley should not be eaten in large quantities for long periods of time because it can be unhealthful and even fatal. Parsley contains the highest concentration of Oxalic Acid of all fruits & vegetables. In fact, the lowest lethal dose of Oxalic Acid on record is only .02 ounces per 2.21 pounds of body weight (600 mg per kg). For a sensitive, 150 pound person (68 kg) that could be as little as 1.36 ounces (38 g) of Oxalic Acid as a lethal dose. So be aware, but not ALARMED; at 150 pounds you would have to eat 5 pounds (2.26 kg) of Raw Parsley to accumulate a potentially lethal dose in a single serving.

Cooking Parsley reduces the potency of the Oxalic Acid and makes it safe to eat in larger amounts. Just don't cook Parsley in an un-coated Copper or Aluminum Pot or Pan because the Oxalic Acid will react with the metal ions and turn the foods brown (in a bad way). Anodized or Teflon coated Aluminum Pots or Pans will work fine.

Unless you want a Pot full of Oxalic Acid, just make sure to toss out the cooking water when you are done.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes