A few weeks ago my mom and I discovered something we never knew about ourselves. We walked into our ever-expanding grow room and there on a table laid the undeniable evidence: we are witches. (That’s right, witches. Not the other closely related word often used to describe strong, persevering women like ourselves.) The proof? The thousands of unfolding first leaves of our parsley seeds.
In ancient Greece, parsley was not eaten but often used in ceremonies associated with death. This was attributed to the legend that parsley sprung up where the blood of the Greek hero Archemorus - the forerunner of death - was shed when he died. Somewhere down the line this led to a belief that because parsley has a poor germination rate, only witches could grow it. Judging by our plentiful yield of seedlings, we definitely be some witchy women.
Today, parsley has a much better reputation and is probably the most common herb in North America. That being said:
Parsley is hands-down the most misused herb in North America.
We often see it decorating uncooked meats and seafood in display windows. Or think of the countless plates restaurants deliver with its lush sprigs adorning otherwise unhealthy food, only to have it returned to the kitchen adorning a messy plate of scraps. What's worse is all the nutrients being tossed into the garbage or, more hopefully, compost bin. According to nutritiondata.self.com:
In a cup of parsley, you’ll get:
- 21% of your daily value of Iron
- 23% of your daily value of Folate
- 101% of your daily values of Vitamin A
- 133% of your daily values of Vitamin C
- a whopping 1230% of your daily value of Vitamin K
Parsley is also a good source of niacin and calcium. It's even been pegged as a potential cancer-fighting agent due to the presence of myristicin in its essential oils. Similar to dandelions, parsley is also a diuretic and is used to treat many conditions effecting the urinary tract and kidneys. Perhaps the most simple way to take advantage of the health benefits and flavour of parsley, is to make a cup of tea. You’ll also get the added benefit of freshening your breath!
In many parts of the world, however, parsley is given a starring role in a variety of classic dishes.
Let’s take a little tour, shall we?
FRANCE - PERSILLADE
This sauce, made primarily of parsley chopped with garlic, oil, vinegar and other herbs, is added at the very end of a dish to give it a major blast of flavour. In France, it’s often served with escargot. In Quebecois cuisine, it’s often added to fried potatoes to make pommes persillade. And a way down in Louisiana, it’s often used in creole dishes with fried chicken. Shown below is persillade with oysters.
SOUTH AMERICA - CHIMICHURRI
This uncooked spicy sauce is a staple marinade in the cuisines of Uruguay and Argentina. In its most basic form, it contains parsley chopped with garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil and wine vinegar. Green and red versions of the sauce exist, with the red version having tomato and/or red pepper added.
ITALY - GREMOLATA
This condiment is best known accompanying braised veal shank in the traditional Milanese dish ossobuco alla milanese. The basic ingredients used to make it are parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Other citrus fruits like orange and lime are often substituted for the lemon as well.
LEVANT - TABBOULEH
You’re probably already familiar with this Eastern Mediterranean dish, since it’s almost as common as hummus in North America. What I love about tabbouleh is that is is one of the few dishes I know of where a herb is actually a main ingredient, not just a flavouring; that herb of course being parsley. Tabbouleh is typically made with tomatoes, parsley, bulgar, mint, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. For a variation, try adding pomegranate instead of tomato.
ENGLAND - PARSLEY SAUCE
It seems that in traditional English cooking this creamy sauce gained a bad reputation for being gloopy and bland. However, when made properly, it is a wonderful accompaniment to fish, meat and vegetable dishes. The basic ingredients are: milk, fresh parsley (including stalks), shallots, peppercorns, butter, flour, double cream, lemon juice and salt.
No matter the recipe, flat leaf parsley is said to have superior flavour. However, if you want some extra crunch, curled-leaf parsley is the way to go.
What’s interesting about all these classic dishes is their utter simplicity. A few ingredients and bam! Your meal just gained rockstar status. Why not give one of them a try the next time you buy a big bunch of parsley? Or, help us put an end to the mutiny of misuse of parsley by sharing this post with a friend that loves to cook.
And if you do choose to use it as a garnish, opt for chopping it up and sprinkling it so it gets consumed. Otherwise, I’ll have no choice but to cast a spell on you.
Sources: The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Author O. Tucker and Thomas Debaggio, Herbs of Choice by Barro E. Tyler, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, 30 Herbs for Your Kitchen Garden by Maureen Little