When you go out to eat and are served a meal with a nice sprig of parsley, do you eat it or throw it away? Parsley is commonly used by restaurants to add a splash of green to the dinner plate. Just in case you didn’t know, it’s edible. And healthy.
Parsley has a long history of being used as a medicine–thousands of years to be exact. However, it has only been used as a seasoning since the Middle Ages. Some of its earliest uses were to help ‘fasten your teeth’ (people had spongy gums from scurvy and parsley contains vitamin C), enhance eyesight, and regulate menstrual periods. Nowadays, we have the research and equipment to analyze the health properties of foods; and darn, if those ancients weren’t right on the money.
Parsley has three times as much vitamin C as oranges, which classifies it as an excellent source. It also contains volatile oils that have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animals, particularly in the lungs. The oils are most effective at inhibiting the carcinogens from cigarette smoke and grilling (the black, charred stuff we get on our food when it burns on the grill). The combination of those two items alone makes parsley worth a chew at the end of your meal.
Parsley is a good source of chlorophyll. If you eat it after a meal, it will cleanse your breath. Eat too much garlic? Finish off the meal with your parsley garnish and you will be good to go. Parsley can be used as a diuretic and is helpful in reducing the risk for kidney stones. Eating the stems and leaves of parsley on a regular basis may potentially save you the agony of developing and passing kidney stones.
Parsley is easy to grow (as are most herbs). You can grow it in your garden or in a flower pot. Parsley is a biennial, which means it takes two years to complete its lifecycle. Most people plant it in April or May to get the largest amount of parsley, but you can even plant it in July, which will give you a late fall crop.
Fresh picked parsley should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wash right before using, as it is very fragile.
“Parsley Potatoes” is an easy recipe to make; just boil red-skin potatoes until tender and then toss them in melted butter with finely chopped parsley. It is also good thrown into a tossed salad, or sprinkled over fish, soup, and stew. It only takes two tablespoons to provide health benefits, so eat your garnish! Or better yet, grow some in your garden and extend the benefits to everyday dining.
Written by: Donna Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County
Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County