Parsley Perks Up your Kitchen

Fresh parsley is so rich in nutrients that it's a shame to use it only as a garnish! A half cup of chopped parsley provides beta carotene, over 50% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C, 12% DV for folate, 16%?DV vitamin A, 10%?DV for iron, 5% DV for potassium and 4% DV for calcium, and for only 10 calories. Parsley contains substances that help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Did you know that you can also use parsley as a green vegetable? It will add a lot of flavor to your dishes without salt or fat.

Which kind do I buy?
There are only two varieties of parsley commonly found in American grocery stores. Curly parsley, which is often used as a garnish but is also good for cooking, has tightly curled, ruffled leaves and a mild flavor. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has a stronger flavor and is used primarily for cooking. In other parts of the world, different varieties of parsley are grown for their edible roots and stalks.

How do I purchase & store parsley?
Fresh parsley should be bright green and not wilted. Rinse it well to remove any soil that may be trapped in the leaves, then spin or shake it dry. Wrap the parsley in paper towels or a clean cloth and store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a week. To freeze parsley for later use, place minced parsley leaves into ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. Frozen cubes may be added directly to soups or stews.

Is there an easy way to chop it?
A large heavy knife, such as a chef's knife, makes it easy to chop parsley. Hold the parsley together in a bunch and cut off the stems just below the leaves. (The small stem parts holding the leaves may be chopped and eaten, and even the lower stems are fine if cooked.) With one hand, hold the point of the knife against the cutting board and use the other hand to guide the knife in small up-and-down chopping motions across the leaves. Stop occasionally to scrape the leaves into a pile and change the angle of chopping. This goes very quickly after just a little practice!

What can I make with parsley?
• Stir chopped parsley into soups, sauces, stews and casseroles just a minute before serving to retain its bright color, fresh taste and vitamin C.
• Parsley is great in a sandwich! Mix it with a spread, or sprinkle it in.
• Stir parsley into your favorite cornbread or add it to yeast dough.
• Potatoes and parsley were made for each other! Sprinkle chopped parsley generously over steamed potatoes or stir it into mashed potatoes.
• Chopped parsley can be tossed with a salad or pureed into the dressing.
• Classic parsley toppings are elegant but easy. Chop equal amounts of parsley and green onions or shallots for a persillade, or combine parsley, garlic and lemon zest for a gremolata. Both are good on vegetables or fish.
• Last but not least, don't forget to eat the garnish!

Did you know...?
• Parsley helps freshen the breath after eating onions or garlic. It was often put on the plate at meal time for this purpose.
• Ancient Greeks never ate parsley but grew it for decoration, wove it into crowns for winning athletes, and used it in sacred funeral rites. They also fed parsley to prized chariot horses.
• During the Jewish Passover meal, the parsley is a reminder of springtime and new life, while the salt water represents the tears of the slaves.
• Louisiana is the largest producer of parsley in the United States.

Parsley Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except parsley and process until smooth. Pulse or stir in the parsley. Serve as a spread or dip for bread, crackers or fresh vegetables.
Serves 8. Each 1/4 cup serving: 71 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 137 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2.5 g protein.

By Cheryl Sullivan, MS, RD.

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