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The inspiration for this post came after seeing just how beautiful my parsley is growing at the moment. The leaves are such a vivid green, lush and beyond the quality of any basil I've grown, which can be a bit fussy.
If there's one thing I love it's reading about the wonder of herbs. A good mate gave me a book called How Can I use Herbs in My Daily Life by Isabell Shipard. The section on parsley is several pages long with a full page dedicated to the medicinal value of parsley. I think it cures everything. Not only that, apparently if a gardener hands you a bunch you will almost certainly fall pregnant… I'm less inclined to believe that one (especially as I'm a bloke) however legend has it that parsley will 'strongly affect men's sexual powers'. Maybe if these guys had gone for parsley instead of olive wreaths, they wouldn't be described as the coxless four.
I'll continue onto some other less controversial facts about parsley…
It's super high in potassium with over 700mg per 100grams of leaves. This combined with the herb's high iron, copper and manganese content means it's great for building healthy blood. Parsley is also quite high in vitamin C and as with citrus fruits, our leafy green friend is at its best in winter, right when we need it. I also found references to parsley being infused and applied to puffy eyes and even steeped into red or white wine with some other choice ingredients to produce 'heart wine' - great for any cardiac problems! Parsley is from the same family that we find celery, carrots, dill and fennel - the easiest way to tell is to see their flowers forming and seeds.
'Tis the season.
My summer basil is a distant memory, and despite growing in a vertical garden against a north facing wall, this year's winter has all but defeated my coriander. On the other hand I look at my parsley. I remember Bill Mollison describing an 'embarrassment of parsley' in one of his early Permaculture videos. Yes, I have an "embarrassment" of parsley and what a nice feeling it is. Parsley is biennial meaning it generally lasts for two years after which it will go to flower and produce a stack of seed. You can simply let this seed fall in your garden beds and there's a good chance new plants will pop up. Alternatively if planting seed deliberately, be prepared to wait a while as the seedlings are renowned for long germination.
Whether I'm cringing over memories of curly parsley from my childhood or not, I now only grow the flat leaf or 'Italian' variety of parsley (Petroselinum crispum .var. neapolitanum). It's hardy, vigorous and produces wonderfully tender flat leaves that are also easier to handle on a chopping board.
Parsley in the kitchen
I have to warn you, if you want to get the best out of the culinary value of parsley, you'll have to look beyond our Anglo-Australian history. My childhood memories of parsley were as an awkward accompaniment to fish and chips if the local pub was feeling fancy, or if Grandma was in an adventurous mood it would be chopped finely and added to a béchamel/white sauce. As a general rule you can use it in place of basil and it deserves to be the hero of simple oil based pasta sauces where it goes so well with chilli and a good quality hard cheese. Today I made parsley pesto, and while I love basil pesto I reckon this "picked and prepped within an hour" dish is superior to any Italian made imported pesto.
2 cups of loosely packed fresh parsley, washed and dried well (pat dry with tea towel or use a salad spinner)
3/4 cup walnuts (I used some local, sweet beauties from Bannockburn)
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano if possible)
1 clove roughly chopped garlic (it will be chopped further by the food processor)
Good local extra virgin olive oil - cold pressed (sorry didn't measure this, just drizzle it in slowly but probably about 3/4 cup)
sea salt to taste
Process the walnuts first, then the parsley and roughly chopped garlic. You may have to keep stopping the processor to push the ingredients down the wall of the processor bowl and back onto the blades.
Once you're sure the parsley is well chopped and the ingredients are mixed together, drizzle in your olive oil while the processor is mixing. Add the oil slowly and in batches, mixing in between.
Place your finished mix into a bowl and add the grated parmesan. Add salt as necessary making sure it's really fine (I crush my Malden sea salt in a mortar with a pestle)
As with basil pesto this goes great with pasta, as a dip, spooned on top of poached eggs and as an accompaniment to grilled meat/fish etc.
Another way to take full advantage of large volumes of parsley is by making the middle eastern salad tabbouleh or tabouli. Apart from tomatoes (and burghal) all the ingredients to this salad are available locally right now.
Here's a you tube recipe which seems pretty good if you can get passed the North American pronunciation of herbs and oregano!
insert you tube clip http://youtu.be/XkSCI07BftM