Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning ʺrock celeryʺ (parsley is a relative to celery). The delicious and vibrant taste and wonderful healing properties of parsley are often ignored in its popular role as a table garnish. The practice of garnishing food with parsley, according to saveur.com, dates back to Roman times, when banqueters munched on the leaves after meals to freshen their breath — and it’s been carried on by restaurants, butcher shops, and home cooks ever since.
While parsley is a wonderfully nutritious and healing food, it is often under-appreciated. Most people do not know that parsley is actually a storehouse of nutrients. A sprig of parsley can provide much more than a decoration on your plate. Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components and the second type is flavonoids.
Parsley’s volatile oils have been shown to inhibit tumour formation in animal studies, and particularly, tumour formation in the lungs. The activity of parsley’s volatile oils qualifies it as a ʺchemo protectiveʺ food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens. In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A.
Parsley is a good source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. Enjoying foods rich in folic acid, like parsley, is an especially good idea for individuals who either have, or wish to prevent, diseases such as atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Folic acid is also a critical nutrient for proper cell division and is therefore vitally important for cancer-prevention in two areas of the body that contain rapidly dividing cells—the colon, and in women, the cervix.
The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety. There is also another type of parsley known as turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) that is cultivated for its roots.
It was molecular gastronomy chef Heston Blumenthal who, using molecular profiling first discovered that parsley paired well with banana. This scientific method of food pairing is based on the principal that foods combine well with one another when they have similar molecular compounds in common.
Chef Blumenthal explained that when he was creating this recipe, he first tried combining the parsley dust with caramelized bananas but the flavour of the bananas was overpowering the parsley. He finally decided to keep it simple and use fresh bananas with a touch of whipped cream to enhance the excellent flavour pairing of banana and parsley. Find this scrumptious recipe on molecularrecipes.com
Here are a few more pairing ideas:
- Combine chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, chopped green onions (scallions), mint leaves, lemon juice and olive oil to make the Middle Eastern classic dish, tabouli.
- Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture to its green colour.
- Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for chicken, lamb and beef.
- Use parsley in soups and tomato sauces.
- Serve a colourful salad of fennel, orange, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and parsley leaves.
- Chopped parsley can be sprinkled on a host of different recipes, including salads, vegetable sautés and grilled fish.
Parsley facts sourced from The Worlds Healthiest Foods