Parsley is one of the culinary world’s most popular herb yet one of the most underutilized by most home cooks. It has a unique flavor profile that is earthy, mildly bitter but can balance savory dishes and brighten flavors. In addition, the subtle, refreshing scent of parsley makes it usable for anything, from sauces and soups to meat-based and vegetable dishes.
Parsley is an herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family native to the central and eastern Mediterranean regions. It is harvested and consumed fresh or dried. Besides adding flavor to dishes, this herb is packed with vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to blood circulation and bone health.
This herb basically falls into one of two categories: Italian (flat) or French (curly). The general belief among gardeners is that the French curly parsley is planted more often for decorating dishes, while the Italian flat parsley is grown as a flavoring. While both varieties taste almost the same, the latter one is generally considered more flavorful. Both types of parsley deserve a place in your kitchen garden as there are so many dishes that this aromatic herb can enhance.
The Hamburg parsley is a third variety that’s not as popular as its cousins. The roots take center stage in this variety, as the roots are used as a winter vegetable like parsnips.
Here are some of the benefits for growing parsley at home:
First, it’s easy to grow once germinated.
Why aren’t more people growing parsley in their garden? Part of the answer is their limited knowledge of its culinary uses. Another has to do with germination. Unfortunately, parsley is notoriously slow to germinate – its rate of germination is among the lowest of any seed you might buy. To make matters worse, most of the parsley plants we can find at nurseries and big box stores are often leggy and not so healthy. But these shouldn’t stop you from growing your own.
Once you get parsley going, it’s easy to grow. You may need a little more patience from the start, but it will be worth it.
Soaking parsley seeds not only speeds up germination but removes the naturally occurring chemicals that discourage seeds from germinating. Some parsley growers recommend sticking the seed in the freezer for a couple of days ahead of planting to help speed germination.
When growing parsley, make sure your soil is rich in organic matter and drains well. Place it in a sunny location, but if you can give them an hour or two of late afternoon shade, the better. Don’t plant parsley in the middle of the summer, as young parsley plants don’t take the heat well.
It can be grown indoors.
Due to the long germination period, gardeners often start growing parsley indoors four to six weeks before the last frost. This way, by the time the soil warms up, they are already ready to transplant into their permanent bed.
Parsley is actually a great green to grow inside all year long. As long as you give it plenty of light and keep it well-watered, it will grow well. Starting it indoors can give you a head start, and it will be ready to go into your garden after seven to eight weeks.
But still, you can grow it in container pots indoors along with your other herbs. This plant does well in full sun as well as partial shade. It needs to be on a windowsill or near a sunlight source so it can receive its needed sunlight for at least five hours a day.
It’s easy to add to any diet.
Parsley is super versatile, and it’s an inexpensive flavoring option for your dishes. The dried version of parsley is used as an enhancer for tomato sauces, stews, and soups. It’s also often combined with other herbs in Italian-inspired recipes.
When parsley is used fresh, it’s added to marinades, homemade salad dressings, and seafood recipes. Many people use fresh sprigs in recipes that do not require cooking. Typically, it’s added at the end of the cooking – that’s why it’s commonly used as a garnish.
It has a spicy, peppery flavor that can pair well with:
- Tomato-based sauces
- Poultry dishes
- Grain-based salads
- Egg dishes
Here are some more ways to add parsley to your diet:
- Finely chop parsley leaves and mix them with your salad dressings.
- Sprinkle fresh or dried leaves on top of a seafood or salmon dish.
- Simmer dried flakes in a homemade tomato sauce.
- Chop the stems finely and add to a potato salad.
It’s packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants.
Parsley may fancy-up your dishes, but it’s not just another pretty face. It has benefits that go way beyond the palate. Parsley offers many nutrients that most people won’t suspect. Here are some of the essential nutrients that can be gained from eating parsley:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Parsley also contains many powerful antioxidants that can benefit your health and prevent cellular damage from free radicals. The main antioxidants found in parsley include:
- Flavonoids such as myricetin and apigenin
- Vitamin C
It supports bone health.
Low vitamin K intake is linked with a higher risk of bone fracture. Conversely, consuming an adequate amount of vitamin K can improve bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing the excretion of calcium in the urine.
Parsley is loaded with vitamin K. A half cup of parsley can offer an impressive 547% of the recommended daily intake (RDI). Ten sprigs of parsley are already enough to reach the RDI of vitamin K. Vitamin K can help build stronger bones by supporting bone-building cells, and it also activates certain proteins that can increase bone mineral density.
It helps prevent cancer.
Parsley contains antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. Eating a balanced diet with more natural foods and less processed foods can generally lessen your risk of developing cancer of any form. Parsley, in particular, is rich in vitamin C and flavonoid antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress in your body and may lower the risk of certain cancers. For instance, intake of flavonoids can help reduce colon cancer risk by up to 30%.
The flavonoids in parsley, such as myricetin and apigenin, have shown anticancer activity in animal and test-tube studies. Myricetin is a flavonoid found in parsley and other plants, and parsley contains one of the highest concentrations of myricetin per 100 grams.
Studies have shown that parsley and other green herbs can prevent cancer-causing effects of chemical compounds found in food, like grilled meat. If you prefer to eat charred steak, pair it with green vegetables like parsley to help reduce potentially harmful effects.
It can help promote healthy eyesight.
Carotenoids in parsley, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene, can help protect your eyes and promote healthy eyesight. In addition, carotenoids can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, so eating more parsley can help reduce the risk of AMD.
Beta carotene can be converted into vitamin A in your body, which can help support eye health. This explains why parsley is rich in vitamin A, which is essential for eye health.
It may improve heart health.
Parsley is a nutrient-dense herb that can improve heart health. It’s a good source of B vitamin folate, and high intakes of dietary folate can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Folate benefits cardiovascular health by lowering the amino acid homocysteine levels, which alters the structure and function of arteries.