If you’ve ever been eating out at a restaurant, and your meal has a random sprig of green leaves on the plate, you’re familiar with parsley being used as a garnish. The truth is, though, that parsley is a popular culinary herb that is used in many cultures around the world. In fact, parsley is the most widely cultivated herb in Europe and the most used herb in the United States. Whether fresh or dried, parsley can be a flavorful and aromatic addition to many different kinds of recipes. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that parsley is also high in nutritional value.
Facts About Parsley
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a kind of flowering plant that’s part of the Apiaceae family, which includes similar vegetables and herbs like carrot, anise, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, and celery. Parsley originated in the Mediterranean region, and it thrives in similar climates where the summers aren’t too hot or humid. It was first used over 2,000 years ago for medicinal purposes, but it has been used in culinary settings for at least the past several hundred years. The plant is primarily used for its attractive green leaves, but the seeds can also be used for a stronger parsley flavor.
Different Types of Parsley
Even though they can sometimes be hard to tell apart, there are actually many different varieties of parsley. In the United States, there are three primary types that are grown mostly in California, Texas, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Florida:
- Crispum: Crispum is also known as curly-leaf parsley, and the leaves are bright green with a toothed edge. Curly-leaf parsley is most often used as a garnish either as a sprig on the side of the dish or chopped and sprinkled on top.
- Tuberosum: Tuberosum is known as either Hamburg root parsley or turnip-rooted parsley. With this type, the leaves are eschewed in favor of the large, edible root; this root is prepared as a vegetable and is used in soups and stews.
- Neapolitanum: This type is known as Italian flat-leaf parsley, and it is the type most commonly used as an ingredient in cooking. The leaves of flat-leaf parsley are a darker green with softer edges, and they also have a stronger flavor than the curly-leaf variety.
Health Benefits of Parsley
For such a simple plant, parsley has a surprisingly rich nutritional profile. For starters, parsley is a good source of vitamins like folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin B6; it also contains minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. In fact, the vitamin K content is especially high; just one tablespoon of chopped parsley has 70% of the recommended daily value. Below are some of the health benefits associated with these nutrients:
- Antioxidants: Parsley contains special compounds called flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. The body naturally produces free radicals, which are small particles that can damage cells. Antioxidants are necessary to protect our cells from these free radicals.
- Kidney health: There is some evidence that parsley can act as a diuretic, a substance that increases urine production. This can be beneficial for some kidney diseases, and may also reduce bloating and improve blood pressure. Some have claimed that parsley tea or parsley juice can also provide these benefits, but more research is needed.
- Diabetes: One of the flavonoids in parsley is called myricetin (often confused with myristicin, another component of parsley that is used in insecticides), and it is thought to have a positive impact on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, both factors in type 2 diabetes.
- Brain health: Another flavonoid present in parsley is apigenin; it is believed to improve the formation of neurons in the brain as well as enhance learning and memory. Apigenin is also being studied as a possible treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.
- Skin care: The vitamin C in parsley is thought to be beneficial both for the production of skin collagen and the repair of damaged skin cells. It may also be helpful in easing the symptoms of a common skin condition called melasma that involves discoloration.
- Heart health: In some recent studies, parsley has been linked to lower cholesterol levels, improved blood pressure (hypertension), and better outcomes for heart disease. Some of these benefits can be attributed to parsley’s antioxidant properties and the protection from oxidative stress.
- Bone health: Both the calcium and vitamin C contained in parsley are known to be important elements of good bone health. There has also been some evidence that the flavonoids in parsley may be helpful in treating osteoporosis.
- Immune system: The effect of antioxidants on a molecular level (protection from free radicals) also has an impact on a much larger scale. Antioxidants also reduce inflammation and improve immune system function and our ability to fight off pathogens.
- Eye health: Parsley also contains beta-Carotene and lutein zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are thought to improve eye health and lower the chance of developing conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Ways to Use Parsley
Whether you’re using fresh parsley or dried parsley, you get an inexpensive but versatile herb that can add extra flavor to any recipe. Parsley is an especially notable part of Italian cuisine, and it is often paired with other herbs like oregano and basil. It has also become a standard ingredient for soups and sauces in professional kitchens all over the world. Unlike some other herbs, parsley stands up well when cooked and is equally valuable when fresh. It is even used in some cultures as a breath freshener after a meal. Below are some examples of how parsley can be used:
- sprinkled over grilled vegetables as a classic garnish
- as part of a bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs added to French stocks and sauces
- finely chopped parsley leaves are a must in many salsas
- mixed into a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad
- the stems and leaves together can lend crunch and flavor to potato salad
- also a crucial part of chimichurri sauce, a staple of Argentine cuisine
Silva: Your Source for High Quality Dried Parsley
Parsley is a go-to ingredient for countless recipes in virtually every type of culinary tradition in the world. At Silva, we stand behind the quality of our dried parsley and every other product in our product list. With our state-of-the-art processing facility and rigorous quality control standards, we are confident that we can provide the best ingredients for your recipes. Contact us to learn more about how we can partner with you and deliver whatever you need. You’re also welcome to request samples to see the quality for yourself!