What is parsley?
Gremolata is a mixture of garlic, parsley and lemon zest that adds a tangy freshness, zing and colour to the traditional Italian dish, ossobuco alla milanese (veal braised with vegetables and white wine). Parsley is a versatile herb that can be the hero of a salsa verde (parsley, capers, anchovies and garlic) or a simple accompaniment when served with a perfectly grilled piece of fish or buttery new potatoes.
Parsley is native to southern Europe and was renowned among the ancient Greeks and Romans and used for medicinal purposes. The Greek warriors used to feed their chariot horses with the herb, whereas the Romans made wreaths for their banquet guests to ward off drunkenness. Parsley was also used in ancient times to mask strong smells.
In Australia, parsley is found growing in most home gardens and is a popular herb used to flavour a great variety of dishes.
In Australia, there are two main varieties of parsley available. Curly leaf parsley has dark-green leaves that have curled (or crinkly) edges. Flat-leaf parsley (also known as Italian or continental parsley) has flat, jagged, dark-green leaves. Flat-leaf parsley has a stronger flavour than the curly leaf variety.
Other parsley varieties that are rarely seen include Hamburg parsley (Petroselinum tuberosum), also known as parsley root, which has white, fleshy roots like a parsnip and tall fern-like leaves. Japanese parsley (Cryptotaenia japonica) resembles flat-leaf parsley but has a more bitter flavour.
Why parsley is good to eat
Parsley is a good source of vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system), C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Parsley contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of parsley supplies 150 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
The parsley plant has a two-year cycle of growth. The leaves, stems and roots grow in the first year and the plant forms flowers and seeds (‘bolts’) in the second year. Parsley grows best when planted in a sunny position, although the seeds take quite a long time to sprout (from two to five weeks).
Curly parsley forms dense clumps and grows to about 20 cm until it flowers and the stems shoot up to about 1 m. They are sometimes planted for borders and grow quite well in indoor or outdoor pots. Flat-leaf parsley grows to about 60 cm and is taller and thinner than the curly variety. In the second year, the stems of flat-leaf parsley grow to between 30 cm and 1 m.
Parsley plants can be harvested between nine and 19 weeks after planting the seeds. Snip the stalks off close to the ground (start with the outside stalks). Snipping off the stalk encourages new growth, whereas if you cut the leaves off near the top and leave the stalk behind, the plant will not produce as much new growth. The more you pick parsley, the denser and better the plant will grow.
Choose parsley that has fresh-looking, dark-green leaves. Avoid parsley with leaves that are yellow and discoloured or limp or wilted.
How to store and keep parsley
Store parsley wrapped in a paper towel in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. It will keep for up to a week if stored this way.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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