Too Much To Drink? Eat Parsley! Bad Breath? Eat Parsley! Well One Out of Two
Another very old herb, in ancient times wreaths of parsley were used to ward off drunkenness. Parsley’s success at this task is questionable, but we do love parsley for its other qualities. While there are more than 30 varieties, the two most popular are curly leafed and flat leaf or Italian parsley. Flat leaf is preferred in Europe for its richer taste while curly leafed in a favorite in the United States and Britain. A third variety is grown in Central and Eastern European countries. It has a larger root system than the varieties used for their leaves. This variety is used for its roots, much like turnips or parsnips.
The plant originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and then became popular in the North in the Middle Ages. It was often grown in monastery and Imperial gardens. Today, chopped parsley leaves are a popular decoration in Central Europe much like the use of coriander leaves in China, South East Asia and parts of India, mostly for soups and vegetables. Chervil is used as an alternate to parsley, especially in France. Parsley’s flavor suffers from any prolonged high heat cooking, parsley leaves should not be cooked if distinct parsley flavor is desired. Stems may be used in white stocks and sauces because they do not color the sauce as the leaves would and for their strength in flavor.
I am a big proponent of quick frying fresh herbs in olive oil. This is the one time that high heat and herbs is acceptable. There is one more important exception to the high heat rule and that is bouquet garni. Bouquet garni typically consists of a selection of fresh herbs (bay leaf, thyme, and parsley) which are tied in a bundle and cooked in soups, sauces or stews. Because of the long cooking time, the herbs’ qualities merge with the flavor of the other ingredients, enriching the food without being recognizable in the finished dish.
Parsley is a popular herb in Western Asia and often appears in Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian or Jordanian foods, particularly as a decoration for cold appetizers like hummus or tabbouleh, often regarded as the national dish of Lebanon.
Parsley has so much chlorophyll that chewing the fresh leaves will destroy the smell of garlic or onion on your breath. Parsley is also a mild calmative for your stomach and digestive system. Parsley is a great source of vitamins A and C. The small fruit of parsley has found little use in the kitchen. They can be used in vegetable stews or lentil dishes with very flavorful effect. Since the flowers are an efficient diuretic drug, large amounts of them may be hazardous, especially for people with kidney problems. The same holds true, but to a lesser extent, for the root. But, interestingly, it does not hold true for the leaves. There really isn’t a good substitute for parsley.