Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Parsley is a green herb available in three varieties: curly, Italian flat leaf and Hamburg. It can be bought fresh or dried. Curly parsley is most commonly used as a garnish due to its appearance and bitter taste while Italian flat leaf packs more flavor, thus adding more to a dish. Both types of parsley, however, are not eaten by themselves but as a seasoning in many dishes. The Hamburg variety of parsley is not commonly known and the root is the part that is used rather than the leaves.
Go for fresh looking, bright green bunches, with no wilting or discolouration. Curly parsley is darker than the flat leaf variety, and has a milder taste. Flat leaf has a more robust (and, some say, better) flavour. They can be used interchangeably, but the fact that flat leaf is much easier to clean (the curly type can trap lots of dirt in its frilly leaves) swings it for some people. Dried parsley is also available but its flavour doesn't match up to the real thing.
Fresh cut parsley should be wrapped in damp kitchen paper, placed in a perforated bag and stored in the fridge. It will last for up to 3 days.
Alternatively, treat like a bunch of flowers and put in a glass of water in the fridge, covering the leaves with a plastic bag and changing the water every two days - it can last for up to a week this way. Dried parsley should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It will keep its potency for up to 4 months.
Parsley Cooking Tips
The most common usage of parsley is as an addition to soups, salads and sauces to add a bit of freshness to the dish. Fresh parsley is generally added at the end of cooking to keep the fresh flavor while dried parsley is added before or during cooking to give the flavor time to seep into the dish. Dried parsley does not add as much flavor as fresh and some cooks claim it adds nothing to a dish. Flat leaf parsley stands up to heat better than curly, which is why it is more commonly added during cooking while curly parsley is added as a garnish.
It is always best to wait and rinse parsley right before use because of its fragile state. To store parsley, wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in an air-tight bag. When buying parsley, look for bright green colors and stay away from yellowing leaves and stems. Keep dried parsley away from light and extreme temperatures for best results.
Although parsley may seem to be too small to have many health benefits, it does in fact contain large amounts of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K as well as iron and folate. The oils that exist in parsley come together to offer the body certain amazing health benefits. These "volatile" oils have been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of tumors in the lungs and brain. The components of parsley also help to cleanse the body of toxins. The flavonoids present in parsley function as antioxidants to the blood.
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