Parsley – Healthy as well?
As one of the world’s oldest cultivated herbs, parsley is also one of the most under valued. For Australians of my age and older it was generally that curly leaved sprig of green on top of the veggies, sitting beside a serve of coleslaw or chopped and tossed on top of the steamed potatoes. I remember being told that it prevents garlic breath and from then on we all finished dinner with a mouth full of parsley.
Few of us would be surprised to know that Parsley is the world’s most popular herb but I suspect we would be surprised to learn that it is also one of the healthiest herbs. Over the past few decades we have learned some great terms: antioxidant, free radical, flavonoid, volatile oil, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Many of these multisyllabic words are really only understood by chemists and biologists. They refer to chemical reactions and properties that few of us can comprehend – and probably don’t need to.
Parsley is a great antioxidant with a mass of flavonoids that reduce our free radicals. 50gm of chopped parsley will give us 5 times our daily intake of Vitamin K, 100% of Vitamins A & C, 40% of our Iron and 5 % of our Zinc needs. This is good AND it also only has 75 kilo Joules of energy making it a super food. We need to find some way of including a cup of parsley into our daily food intake.
So what does this all mean? How does parsley benefit my health?
We are constantly being told to eat foods like Parsley because they are good for us and we are supposed to just know how and why. The reality is that in our modern world there are two or three major disease concerns: cancer, diabetes and heart disease. In all three cases there are some simple positives: don’t smoke, keep the weight down and exercise. As well as these there are the benefits of healthy foods, like Parsley.
The volatile oils like myristicin and eugenol are excellent in preventing, reducing and fighting the nasties that are the main causes of cancer, diabetes and blood diseases. They, plus others, are present in many other herbs but not with the same range of other beneficial consituents parsley has. Eugenol reduces blood sugars, Myristicin attacks carcinogens and Limonene will reduce gastric acid and dissolve cholesterol.
The flavonoids are the real heroes as they are behind the plant based anti-oxidants. These trendy chemicals are our natural protection from free radicals. Those little beasties are not long haired hippies with a dislike for convention. They are simply molecules missing an electron that are happy to just take one from a neighbouring molecule. This will then generate a chain of molecule stealing which can cause damage to our more complex proteins, like DNA and RNA. There is a belief that they are the prime cause of ‘aging’ and that we should be all that is possible to remove them from our bodies. This may or not be the case but they are known to have a strong link to many common cancers and need to be addressed.
Eat lots of Parsley and you will reduce the free radicals, fight cancer and diabetes, reduce cholesterol and slow the aging process. You will also have fresh breath but most of all you will stimulate the taste buds. The rich but delicate flavour is best presented as a raw green cooked with minimal processing. It is far better as a mainstay in a dish than as a simple garnish. It makes a great soup or green salsa, adds strength of taste to quiche and other egg dishes and as the main component of tabouleh it is a delightful salad vegetable.
Like so many of the herbs we use, all parts of the parsley plant are edible. The seeds can be ground and added to deserts and teas for a slight savoury taste. The flowers make an attractive garnish for salads and the roots will give nutrition and flavour to soups and casseroles. Even on its own as a stunning entree; lightly battered and then deep fried.
Make a very light batter with white flour and white wine (or use a good Tempura batter)
Pick and thoroughly rinse a bunch of Curly Parsley.
Allow to dry then toss in the batter – do not completely cover the parsley.
Place in frying basket and dip in hot vegetable oil for 12 – 15 seconds.
Drain and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.
Serve with a light chilli, ginger and lime dipping sauce.