Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The humble herb

My mother taught me always to buy fresh parsley in large quantities, chop it and freeze it. Then I always have it on hand to add to any dish I’m cooking.

So, last evening, while I was cooking supper, I destalked the parsley from two boxes – bought in the same supermarket, off the same shelf, on the same day, both labeled ‘Parsley’. But they were different. One box contained the curly leaf variety (petroselinum crispum), the other contained the flat leaf type (p. neopolitanum), and I wandered what the difference - other than appearance – is.

There are actually at least thirty seven different varieties of parsley, but it is the curly variety that is used in herbal medicine – and aromatherapy.

According to Wikipedia (, both are of the same order (apiales) and family (apiaceae). But the curly variety is the main species, and the flat leaf is a sub-species. Supposedly, the flat leaf has a stronger flavour – it has higher levels of essential oils. Personally, I can’t tell the difference in taste. However, I would always choose the curly leaf because it is much easier to de-stalk and chop, and it makes a much prettier garnish (pretty much ubiquitous on every restaurant plate). In England at least, the curly leaf variety is cheaper, too.

Coriander (aka Chinese parsley or cilantro) is of the same order and species as parsley, but is lower in nutrients and calories/kilojoules. Coriander has 20 kcals/84 kilojoules per 100gms, parsley has twice that – not that anyone is likely to eat 100gm of either at one sitting!

Parsley has medicinal uses, too. A tea made from parsley is said to control high blood pressure. When crushed and applied to the skin, parsley can relieve itchy mosquito bites – useful to know in this country, at this time of year! And of course, there is the old folk remedy – chew parsley to alleviate the smell of garlic on the breath. I think this rather depends on the quantity of each consumed!

All this, because I took my husband to lunch today, and guess what… there was NO parsley garnish.

Anniversaries today: The Boston Tea Party 1773 - damn all taxes!

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