Parsley is a native of the Mediterranean region, but, quickly spread throughout the world as a popular culinary essential. To honor the Greek god Archemorus, the herald of death, wreaths of parsley were worn by funeral attendants and the deceased were adorned with the herb before burial. Hercules chose the herb for his victory garland, and, continuing the honored tradition, victorious athletes were crowned with wreaths of woven parsley during the Isthmian Games. Early uses for the herb were mainly as a fodder for horses, but, soon, parsley gained a growing reputation as a culinary herb. Romans were so fond of parsley that garlands were woven with it to present to party guests in an effort to control strong odors and to counter the effects of alcohol.
Due to the long germination time of parsley seeds, in European folklore it was believed that the tap root went down to the devil seven times before it would be able to grow! Other lore contends that parsley seeds must be planted on Good Friday in order to assure a bountiful harvest through the summer.
When I say parsley, you think garnish, right? Wrong. This slightly peppery and bright herb is so much more than a bit of green on the side of your plate. Parsley is a great source of vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber. Raw parsley also acts as a breath freshener and has anti-inflammatory properties. There are many varieties of parsley, but the most common are flat-leaf, also known as Italian, and curly.
Guess what else? Parsley brightens flavors. It adds balance to savory dishes the way that a little lemon juice can make something just taste better. Parsley is a mild “bitter”. The tastebuds on your tongue can distinguish 5 tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salty and sweet are obvious. Sour you get from acid like lemon juice or vinegar. Umami has to do with the savory taste of protein. Bitter you get from citrus zest, bitter greens like kale, mustard greens, arugula, and parsley. Well balanced dishes stimulate all or most of these taste receptors. Adding parsley to a stew doesn’t make the stew taste like parsley, but will make the stew taste more balanced, if it doesn’t already have a bitter in it. Plus, bitters help stimulate our appetite as well as our digestive functions...so munch away!
Trim the ends of your parsley stalks, place them in a small jar or glass with water in the fridge. Cover with a small plastic bag and use as needed. Replace water if it begins to brown.
Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Parsley and Mint
(Makes 4-6 servings, recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.)
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
pinch of salt for quinoa cooking water
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes (let them drain in a colander if the tomatoes are juicy)
1/2 cup chopped parsley (I used curly parsley, but either kind will work)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (peel the cucumber if it has a thick skin, or peel in strips like I did, and scrape out seeds if they are large)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use an olive oil with good flavor)
3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
Put quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse well with cold water until no more foam appears. (You can use a paper towel inside a regular strainer if you don't have one that's fine enough.)
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add pinch of salt, stir in quinoa, reduce heat to the barest simmer and cook 12-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Cover the quinoa and let it sit for 5 minutes more.
While quinoa cooks, chop cherry tomatoes into small pieces. If the tomatoes are very juicy, let them drain in the same colander you used for the quinoa.
After it sits for 5 minutes, put the cooked quinoa into the bowl you're using for the salad and let it cool to room temperature for 20-30 minutes. While quinoa cools, peel the cucumbers, scrape out seeds if they are large, then chop cucumbers into 1/2 inch pieces. Wash the parsley, spin dry or dry with paper towels, then finely chop until you have 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Whisk together the olive oil, fresh lemon juice, ground cumin, pinch of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt to make the dressing.
When quinoa is cooled to room temperature, stir in the cucumber, drained tomatoes, and parsley, then add just enough dressing to moisten the salad, about 4-5 T of the prepared dressing (you will use some of the reserved dressing later.) Cover the salad, refrigerate, and let flavors blend for 30 minutes or as long as a few hours if you're making this ahead.
When you're ready to serve the salad, remove from refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while you wash mint, spin dry or dry with paper towels, and finely chop to make 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped mint. (I love mint, but it's a strong flavor so if you're not sure how much you like it, I'd use the smaller amount.) Stir in chopped mint, then taste the salad and add more of the reserved dressing until the flavor tastes fresh (you may not need all the dressing.) Season with a little more salt if desired, and serve.
This recipe is from Vegetariana and comes highly recommended from Connie, a garden member.
3 cups thinly shredded white or red cabbage
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup parsley dressing
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Chill before serving.
Yield: About 1 cup
½ cup firmly packed fresh parsley
¼ cup oil (half safflower, half olive recommended)
¼ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dried dill
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in the container of a food processor. Process until all that remains of parsley is tiny flakes. Refrigerate the unused portion in an airtight container and use within 2 days.