The all-purpose green garnish

March 19, 2008

Despite its soft, tender leaves, parsley is a tough herb, overwintering just fine next to the sage, rosemary, and thyme. The seeds my parsley plants scattered last fall are just coming up, filling the vegetable beds with a soft carpet of sweet green. But I’m still clipping new growth from last year’s plants, showering minced parsley leaves over pretty much everything savory.

A basket full of fresh parsley: flat-leaf on the left, curly on the right.

The parsley I grow is the kind referred to as “flat-leaf” or “Italian” parsley; this parsley is easier to clean and sweeter-tasting than the frizzy parsley called “curly.” If you’ve ever munched the curly parsley garnish that comes on the side of most diner blue-plate specials — you know, the fuzzy mop next to the orange slice — you’ll realize why flat-leaf parsley is now king: the curly stuff isn’t just crunchy, it’s downright bitter. Keep the bitterness for winter’s big-leaved greens (kale, mustard, etc.) and grow or buy the Italian parsley instead.

If you hate cilantro, parsley is a milder alternative. And here’s a fun fact: Kosher restaurants aren’t wild about curly parsley because it’s easier for bugs to hide in the curly leaves. With a few exceptions, bugs ain’t kosher.

Toss a big bunch of flat-leaf parsley (pull the leaves from the stems and discard the stems first) into a food processor for one of three classic sauces: Italian Parsley Pesto, Salsa Verde, or the gremolata in Buffalo Brisket in Tomato Sauce With Gremolata. Each offers a Mediterranean taste of summer when the real hot weather is still months away. Hold off on the tabbouleh, though, till the tomatoes are ripe.

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1. by dgreenwood on Aug 18, 2010 at 10:50 AM PDT

Don’t just throw out those stems! Use them to flavor stocks or stews/braises - they don’t alter the color the way the leaves do. Thanks for focusing on this most useful of herbs.

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