If your only experience with parsley is as a sad, wilted plate garnish, you’re in for a surprise! Poor parsley needs a new PR agency—it’s got a lot going for it. But it’s often overlooked when basil, chives, and rosemary are around. Here’s what you need to know about this herb—including what to do with it.
Types of parsley
Native to the Mediterranean, parsley is one of the most common cooking herbs. You’ll probably find only two types at local nurseries and grocery stores: French curly-leaf and Italian flat-leaf. Flat-leaf tends to have a bolder flavor and darker color than curly-leaf, and is typically used for dried parsley.
What’s great about parsley nutritionally?
Fresh parsley earns 3 Guiding Stars for best nutrition because it’s packed with nutrients, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Parsley is also especially rich in Vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and bone building. (People taking blood thinners should be careful of consuming too much Vitamin K-rich foods. In most cases, however, parsley is not consumed in large amounts so it’s typically not a concern.) And parsley is an excellent source of polyphenols, a large group of beneficial plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
How to use parsley
Fresh herbs are wonderful to have on hand for all sorts of recipes, and parsley is uniquely versatile. Most simply, you can sprinkle chopped parsley over all kinds of dishes for instant color and a little zingy taste. But parsley really shines when it’s used in greater quantity—and as more than a garnish. Here are a few recipe ideas:
- Chimichurri: Usually an accompaniment for grilled meats, chimichurri typically uses a lot of parsley, although other herbs are involved too. (It’s also delicious with fish.)
- Tabbouleh: Sometimes called parsley salad, this grain-based Lebanese staple usually features parsley along with bulgur, mint, and fresh veggies. Different variations can also be made using other grains like quinoa, or adding protein.
- Pesto: Quick to prepare, this distinctive, bright green sauce is typically made with basil. However, pesto can be made with lots of different greens (think arugula or kale) and herbs—including parsley.
- Parsley salad: Parsley can be used in place of lettuce or in addition to lettuce. For this, the milder-flavored curly-leaf parsley might be more appealing.
Dried parsley is a staple herb that finds its way into soups, stews, salad dressings, and even bread! When cooking with dried parsley, remember the general culinary guideline: one teaspoon of dried equals one tablespoon of fresh. It’s always easier to add more dried herbs than it is to take them out. So start with that guideline and add more to taste.
How to store fresh parsley
Fresh parsley is very handy to have, so it helps that it stores easily. Wash the fresh-cut sprigs and spin them dry in a salad spinner, or lightly with a paper towel. If you’ll be using them soon, keep the sprigs on your kitchen counter in about an inch of water. For longer-term storage (up to a few weeks), top the “bouquet” of parsley with a plastic bag. Secure the bag with a rubber band and then refrigerate. You can also use a tall, lidded jar or plastic container. Just add one inch of water and the parsley, pop the lid on and refrigerate. (There’s less chance of spills in your refrigerator this way!)
If you want to freeze fresh parsley, chop it finely, mix with some water and spoon into ice cube trays. When frozen, pop the cubes out and store them in a labeled freezer bag or container. Alternatively, you can freeze fresh parsley in freezer bags, then thaw and use as desired.
Tips for growing parsley
Parsley can be grown at home in a container on the patio, in the garden, or even inside. Growing it from seed can be challenging, however. Instead, start with a seedling, which are widely available at the beginning of your local growing season. Parsley prefers 6+ hours of sunlight, especially morning sun. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. When you’re ready to harvest, cut the lower, outside leaves first, down to almost the base of the plant. Be sure to do so before it produces flowers—once that happens, the leaves will taste bitter!