Parsley, a popular herb, has exceptional health benefits and flavor-enhancing qualities, however, it can be difficult to know the best ways to use it.
You will find that parsley has several varieties unique to many regions of the world.
It can be a bit tricky to store properly for extended use. And, what happens if you do not have parsley on hand when a recipe calls for it?
Keep reading to find solutions to all your parsley-related inquiries.
It is believed the origins of parsley can be traced back to the Mediterranean region over 2,000 years ago.
Some say the Romans used it for cooking, as a hangover cure and to wear in an effort to absorb bad fumes and odors.
Over the years, different cultures and periods of time have used parsley for any number of reasons, from attempting to kill enemies in Medieval times to using in a ceremonial manner in ancient Greek times.
And, both the Romans and the Greeks used parsley for medicinal purposes including to heal toothaches and respiratory issues such as bronchitis.
Despite the fact it is native to places such as Greece and Sardinia, it is grown in the wild and cultivated as a naturalized herb in a wide variety of countries including Britain, Mexico and the US.
This biennial plant is capable of growing in cold climates and, once it takes to the ground, it will blossom each year without having to replant it.
And, unlike most other herbs, the leaf and the root can be used in cooking.
Wherever you live, you likely have access to at least a few varieties of parsley.
The most common type of parsley is curled leaf parsley.
This type has several unique varieties of its own including;
- Extra Triple Curled,
- Forest Green,
- Frisca and Pagoda.
The flavor of these varieties is a bit milder than others; therefore, you might have to use more to reach the level of flavor you prefer.
The stronger variety is called flat leaf parsley and often referred to as Italian parsley.
As the name suggests, this type of parsley has flat leaves; whereas, the leaves on curled leaf parsley are more coarse and curly.
Some varieties within the flat leaf family type include Gigante Catalogno, Italian Dark Green and Italian Plain Leaf.
The newest parsley type is that of Hamburg parsley which is also referred to as German parsley.
This type of parsley is not grown for the flavor of the leaves, but rather the use of the root is more valued and consumed. The root vegetable is often compared to that of a turnip.
What Can I Substitute for Parsley in Cooking?
Parsley has a unique flavor profile that is difficult to replicate; however, you can use a few kitchen hacks and substitutions to provide the sensation of a parsley presence.
One of the best substitutions for fresh parsley is to use carrot greens or rather the leafy tops of carrots.
Many local supermarkets remove them before they place them on display for purchase, however many higher-end supermarkets and health food stores will keep the greens intact.
Carrots and parsley are in the same food family; therefore, carrot greens make a superior substitution.
Many people also replace parsley with the leaves of celery stalks, chervil and cilantro.
If you have a genetic aversion to cilantro, which many people do, this may not be the ideal substitute for you.
Take a small bite of cilantro before you use it in a dish just to be sure.
Keep in mind that all three of these herbs have distinct flavors that are different from parsley.
They are simply good to be used in a pinch.
And, if you only have dried parsley instead of fresh, you can use one teaspoon of dried parsley for one tablespoon of fresh parsley in any recipe.
Parsley leaves are so much more than simply adding flavor to soups and salads.
The health benefits are outstanding. This bountiful herb has high concentration levels of both vitamin A and C, as well as numerous antioxidants, to help your immune system stay strong.
It will also help to prevent diabetes in many instances. It can even help minimize the effects of asthma. In fact, the health benefits are so great that it is often referred to as a superfood.
According to Whole Foods, parsley is considered a chemoprotective food.
This means that various components of parsley are capable of fighting and preventing certain types of cancer in many people including within the colon and cervix.(1)
It is also high in folic acid to protect your heart, and it has been linked to protecting against rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation.
Civilizations have been using parsley for medicinal purposes for centuries.
You can actually use parsley leaves in the form of a tea.(2) Drinking the tea is said to eliminate many toxins from your body.
However, it is recommended by some to only consume one cup per day because of the high levels of vitamin K. Many people also swear by parsley to as a way to help with weight loss, however this has not been medically proven.
If you have bad breath, rather than to reach for a piece of gum, grab some parsley leaves to chew on to leave your breath refreshed.
You will also benefit from eating and drinking parsley as an aid in digestion.
According to a Dr. Axe publication, the consumption of parsley additional holistic medicinal purposes are to help with the regulation of bowel movements, including symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.(3)
And, it will help to minimize bloating and help with indigestion by stimulating the removal of excessive water lingering in the abdomen. It has also been known to reduce the effects of gas, minimize signs of nausea and prevent constipation.
Cooking Uses and Taste
Parsley is often used as a garnish to make dishes look more beautiful, and it is safe to consume.
It is important to note that people who are allergic to celery, carrots or fennel are often prone to allergic skin reactions to parsley.
However, the vast majority of people are not allergic to this magical herb. The cooking uses for parsley are vast and enhance the flavor of many meals from salads and sandwiches to pasta dishes and soups.
Parsley has a slightly peppery taste and adds a vibrant component to many dishes.
It is quite common for people to use it in meat and vegetable marinades. You can add it to rice to make the delicious dish of arroz verde.
You can use it as a base for a stunning chimichurri or salsa verde to use as a meat condiment or on pasta dishes.
It is even a flavor enhancer to any salad such as an Israeli salad with tomatoes and cucumbers.(4) And, you can add it to homemade salad dressings for a greater impact on the final results.
A spectacular use of parsley in cooking is to make a traditional gremolata.
This simple, yet classic and elegant, mix of parsley, lemon and garlic is used in Italian kitchens everywhere. You will find it on roasted vegetables, grilled fish, baked chicken and lamb.
Some people will even bake it with cheese or top dips, such as hummus, with it and serve with crackers. It is a highly diversified food condiment that will not disappoint.
Storage and Selection
Some parsley bunches are better than others.
Dried parsley does not have as good a flavor as fresh parsley, however it will add some flavoring to dishes.
If you choose to use fresh parsley, be sure to seek out the best-looking parsley for the most enhanced flavoring.
Look for bunches that appear crisp and vibrant in a deep green coloring. If a bunch is wilted or yellow, it has been damaged or it is approaching its expiration date.
You have several options to store fresh parsley and it will vary based on the type of parsley you prefer.
Flat leaf parsley is best stored in the fridge.
You can place a paper towel within the bag to help keep moisture away from the leaves to make it last longer. You can also dry out flat leaf parsley on a kitchen towel to be used as a stronger dry herb.
Be sure to place the dried out herbs in a sealed container to maximize impact. If curly parsley is your choice, most professionals will recommend that you freeze it rather than to dry it to prolong its use.
When you are unable to get fresh parsley, consider using the leafy tops of carrots or a flavorful alternative, like the leaves of celery stalks, chervil, and cilantro.
Parsley can transform a dish from bland and boring to bold and exciting, as well as fight off cancer and improve the health of your heart.
Whether you choose flat leaf or curly, be sure to store it properly for the best results.
And, you can even drink it as a tea for even greater health benefits and to minimize waste. It is a remarkable herb that you can easily grow at home or find at nearly any supermarket or fresh market on the planet.