Some know parsley only as an attractive leaf garnish that's ignored, not eaten. It's true that parsley leaves are an attractive plant with small, scalloped leaves, but it has more than a pretty appearance. It’s an annual herb thought to have originated in southeastern Europe or western Asia, now grown in gardens throughout the world.
There are two basic parsley types: one with curly, crinkly leaves and the more familiar Italian parsley, which is flat. The latter is hardier for withstanding cold in Northern or Midwest gardens. Parsley usually reaches one to two feet in height in the first year before flowering, and grows best in partial shade. It's been suggested that because it's a bit difficult to start from seed, taking up to two months to sprout, buying small parsley seedlings (organic is best!) may be a better way to start this in your indoor pots or late spring garden. One tip involves pouring a kettle of boiling water along the row before covering the seeds. As a potted plant, keep it evenly moist.
Chopped fresh or dried and combined with thyme and bay leaves, parsley is included in the French combination of herbs called bouquet garni, used to season stock, stews, and soups. It can be added to sandwiches, any type of casserole and adds a fresh, spring-like flavor to dips and cheese. The best way to keep fresh parsley sprigs is to wrap them in damp paper towels, place in a sealed zip-lock baggie, and keep refrigerated. Dried parsley flakes are useful for several months when stored in a tightly sealed glass container and stored in cool, dark, and dry place.
Health Benefits of Parsley
If you want to be impressed by parsley, take a look at its vitamin K content – a whopping 574% of the daily recommended value. What this does is promote bone strength, but it also has a role in the treatment and possible prevention of Alzheimer's disease by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. The vitamin K dominance is enough to make the 62% daily value of vitamin C and the 47% DV in vitamin A look positively paltry, but the “C” content is 3 times more than in oranges, and the “A” augments the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, helping to prevent eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
The iron in parsley (twice as much as in spinach) is essential for the production of an important oxygen-carrying component in the red blood cells called heme. Copper is important because it’s required by the body for normal metabolic processes, but must be supplied through outside sources. The manganese in parsley contains super-antioxidant superoxide dismutase, and the folate helps form red blood cells and make up our genetic material.
Parsley is useful as a digestive aid with its high fiber content. This helps move foods through the digestive tract and controls blood-cholesterol levels, but has a diuretic effect as well. A tea made from parsley is a traditional remedy for colic, indigestion, and intestinal gas. As an herb sprinkled in food, it actually helps purify the blood and fight cancer. Eating parsley is now thought to be a way to detoxify the system of harmful compounds like mercury, sometimes found in dental fillings.
Quite a unique compilation of compounds and volatile oils is contained in parsley. Eugenol is used in dentistry as a local anesthetic and an antiseptic to help prevent gum diseases. It's also been found to reduce blood sugar levels. Polyphenolic flavonoids and antioxidants include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and alphathujen. Volatile oils include myristicin, limonene, apiol, and alpha-thujene. It also contains one of the highest antioxidant counts among plants, with an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of 74,349 per 100 grams of fresh, raw parsley.
Parsley is one of Dr. Mercola’s most highly recommended vegetables.
Parsley Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Parsley
The apigenen in celery and parsley was also shown to dramatically inhibit breast cancer cells in a celebrated study done at the University of Missouri. Scientists found apigenin shrank a certain breast cancer tumor stimulated by progestin, a synthetic hormone taken by women for menopausal symptoms.1
Fourteen subjects participated in a randomized crossover trial to research the effectiveness of the flavone apigenin in parsley on the biomarkers for oxidative stress. Erythrocyte glutathione reductase (a polypeptide important in oxidation-reduction) and superoxide dismutase (which removes free radicals) activities were found to increase during intervention with parsley.
The conclusion: parsley seemed partly responsible for increased levels of glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase.2
Parsley Healthy Recipes:
Garlic Green Beans with Parsley
|1 pound green beans, stem ends removed
||2½ tablespoons olive oil
||2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
||2 teaspoons lemon zest
|Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
||1 tablespoon lemon juice
||2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add green beans and cook until tender but still crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Return the beans to the pot. Add the lemon zest, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Toss to coat and serve.
Optional: Sprinkle with 1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped, and sprinkle with raw cheese of choice.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
(From: Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Mercola)
Parsley Fun Facts
Parsley as a word is derived from two Greek words: "petrose," meaning rock, since it so often pops through rocky terrain and stone walls; and "selenium," an ancient name for celery. So literally, parsley means “rock celery.” This herb was often planted at gravesides, so the loaded phrase “in need of parsley” meant someone was not long for this world.
Parsley is an herb known primarily as a decorative embellishment in restaurant food presentation, but it's so much more than that. Its subtle flavor is useful in all kinds of dishes, cold and hot. To grow it yourself, remember: as a biennial, it only flowers the second year, but it’s well worth the wait.
Parsley is useful as a digestive aid and natural breath freshener, and contains lots of vitamin A, copper, and manganese, plus three times more vitamin C than oranges, and twice the iron than the same amount of spinach. A tea made from parsley is a traditional remedy for colic, indigestion, and intestinal gas, and as an herb helps to purify the blood and fight cancer. Sprinkle it in your next casserole or pot of soup to add a fresh and nutritive flavor dimension.