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Curly or flat – parsley is popular

Parsley is among the most-used culinary herbs. If you’re one of the few people who’s never tasted parsley, then you should know it has a fresh, herby and slightly peppery taste.

 

Shopping for parsley, you’ll usually find you have a choice of flat-leafed or curly-leafed parsley. The flat-leafed type is very aromatic, while the curly-leafed type has a far milder taste. On the other hand, curly-leafed parsley is tough, keeps well and looks more decorative on your plate. Both types of parsley are full of key nutrients like potassium, calcium, beta-carotene and vitamin C.

Cooking with parsley

Parsley is an almost universal flavouring for savoury dishes – it’s used in stews and soups, in sauces and vegetable stir-fries, in omelettes and quiches. You’ll also find parsley in salads, pestos, herb butters and dips. Apart from the flavour boost, chopped parsley adds decorative green flecks to many rather dull-looking foods, from boiled potatoes to white sauces. Italian dishes mostly call for flat-leafed parsley, which also combines well with other herbs like thyme and marjoram. It’s best to sprinkle chopped parsley over a dish just before you serve it so that the aroma is not lost in cooking.

Botanical and other details

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), like many other culinary herbs belongs to the Apiaceae family. Originally it probably came from the eastern Mediterranean, where it can grow up to a meter high. If you want to grow your own parsley so as to be sure of fresh, tender leaves for most of the year, then choose fertile soil in full sun to half-shade. Sow seeds from March onward, but be patient, parsley can take several weeks to germinate. For quicker results, simply buy a pot of growing parsley in your local supermarket, separate out clumps of plants and pop them in the ground. You can start snipping off individual stalks as soon as the plants are big enough. Parsley is a biannual plant, i.e., it grows one year and flowers the next year. Once the plant forms flowerheads, the leaves become bitter and inedible, so you need to renew your stock, by sowing or buying, every year.

Buying and storing

Before buying parsley, check that it’s fresh and crisp, not old and wilting. You’ll usually have the choice between a bunch of parsley or a pot. Choose fresh-looking bright green leaves. Wrapped in a damp cloth, even a bunch of parsley will keep several dys in your fridge, If you can’t find the right quality fresh, it might be an idea to consider deep frozen or freeze dried parsley. Or as a last resort, buy dried parsley. Sadly these alternatives are usually a poor substitute for fresh parsley if it’s aroma you are looking for.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de