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May, 2012

More Popular Than You Think

By Mark Mulcahy

Since it has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, Melissa’s organic Italian flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking and therefore is usually the type preferred for hot dishes.

Can you guess what is the world's most popular herb? I’ll give you a hint. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning "rock celery".

Italian Parsley

Do you know now? Ok I’m talking about parsley the bunch of herbs that most of us walk by in the produce department and more often than not leave on our plates after dinner at a restaurant. Maybe you shouldn’t as Parsley sweetens the breath, aids digestion, and helps relieve gas. Plus, it’s very nutritious. Loaded with vitamins C and A, calcium, magnesium and iron, parsley is also rich in chlorophyll, so it’s like all deep greens—it builds and helps detoxify your blood. It is an effective diuretic, helping the kidneys and bladder to relieve excess water due to weight gain, menstrual stress, and travel.

The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. Many cooks prefer Italian Parsley as it is more fragrant, chops more easily, has tender stems, and has more flavor. It is popular among cooks in the Middle East and Europe where it’s also used as a vegetable in dishes like tabouli. Oddly, curly leaf tends to be more popular here in the U.S. where it’s used as a garnish and ingredient. Is there a really a flavor difference? I think so, but ultimately that’s up to you to decide. Keep in mind that growing conditions, such as moisture and heat, will affect the flavor of both. To use, add chopped, raw parsley to pasta and rice dishes; use when making sauces or soup stock, or, steep some in hot water for a cup of tea. (I’ll have to try that after dinner some night).

Since it has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, Melissa’s organic Italian flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking and therefore is usually the type preferred for hot dishes. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value.

Parsley is, along with celery and carrots, a member of the Umbelliferae family. It’s no longer found in its original, wild form but is thought to have originated in Sardinia. The ancient Greeks, and possibly the Romans, used celery and parsley interchangeably as a seasoning. Both curly and Italian varieties were in use by 320 BC. Parsley use spread throughout the Middle East and Europe and by 1548 parsley had arrived in England. Ancient Greeks crowned winners of sporting events with parsley, and warriors fed the leaves to their horses. When buying Melissa’s organic parsley, choose bunches with firm, straight stems and bright green leaves. Avoiding yellow or wilted leaves as that is a sign of age. When you get it home don’t wash it until needed, as too much moisture will cause it to break down quicker. At home, wrap your bunch in a slightly moistened paper towel, place in a plastic bag and it will hold up for about a week in the fridge. So whether you eat it, cook it, wear it or feed it to your horse, parsley is one herb that is worth having around the house.

Since it’s springtime you may also want to indulge in one of my other springtime favorites – Melissa’s fresh English peas. They are sweet, crunchy and so fun to remove from their beautiful green shell. Plus they combine wonderfully with the most popular herb in the world.

Try this Pea & Parsley Pesto recipe I adapted from Week Night Gourmet if you love parsley, peas, and pesto you will fall in love with this recipe.

You need


To prepare
  • Cook 1 cup peas.
  • In a food processor, combine cooked peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and 1-tablespoon water. Pulse until a paste forms. With machine running, slowly add oil, processing until blended; season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, adding your other fresh cup of peas 30 seconds before end of cooking.
  • Reserve 1-cup pasta water; drain pasta and peas. Return pasta and peas to pot and toss with 3/4-cup pesto (reserve remainder for another use), adding enough pasta water to create a sauce that coats the pasta.
Serve pasta with more Parmesan.

Serves 4.

Cooking Note
If you haven’t cooked fresh peas before, it’s fairly quick and easy to do. After you have shelled your peas from their pods, place them in a bowl near your pot filled with just enough water to reach the bottom of a steamer basket. Bring the water to a full boil. Place the shelled peas in the basket; making sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Place cover on saucepan and cook for 2 minutes.

Do not overcook! Peas should be crisp-tender when done and bright green in color. Remove the steamer basket from the saucepan with hot pad and pour peas into a serving bowl to use in the recipe.