Sarah and I are excited to share with you the second installment of Cooking from your herb garden. In case you missed it, this series will include wonderful information about cultivating and cooking with fresh herbs. That means each week you'll receive information on growing and caring for specific herbs at home, tips and techniques for using the herbs, and a fun recipe or two to get you started! Our goal is to empower you to cook at your whim using what's fresh and easy, with the confidence that your meal will be awesome without too much extra effort.
This week is all about PARSLEY. During our initial meeting, Sarah made an excellent point that most people feel stuck when it comes to parsley. Arguably because we see it used as a garnish for dishes of the red sauce variety (pasta..pizza..) day in and day out. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using parsley in these ways, and we encourage you to continue using it there! The thing is, there are a million ways to use parsley outside of the conventional garnish (and has been utilized by almost every cuisine, after all!). So, we're making our case for parsley:
Best Growing Practices
Parsley is relatively easy to grow and does well in containers, so it is a good choice for an apartment dweller with limited outdoor space. It can also be grown indoors, as long as it's getting plenty of sun.
You can start parsley from seed, but it takes awhile to germinate. So if you're just wanting enough to use for cooking, I suggest buying a few plants at the farmers' market or from a nursery.
Give your parsley good quality potting soil if growing in a container. If planting directly in the ground, be sure to add some compost. I recommend adding fertility (such as fish emulsion) a few times throughout the growing season, especially if you're regularly using the parsley. Producing all that delicious greenery takes a lot of nutrients!
Parsley is fairly cold tolerant. A light frost will not kill it. When the temps start to dip overnight, just bring your parsley inside (if in a pot) or cover with a light fabric or row cover (if planted in the ground). Here in Maine, I can generally have fresh parsley until Thanksgiving if I'm bringing my gardening A-game.
Those of you in slightly warmer climates can enjoy fresh parsley year round. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it flowers + goes to seed in its second year of growth; but you won't see this here in Maine (because too cold!).
Best Cooking Practices
Flat leaf parsley is my personal favorite because of it's texture and stronger bitter flavor. It's funny, I find many people shy away from adding the bitter taste to their food. The trick in cooking a great meal from nothing is to find a way to represent a few different flavor profiles (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami) because they complement each other really nicely. Parsley is a great source of bitter to help elevate any dish.
The rule of thumb is cook it last or don't at all. As with any fresh leafy herb, best to keep it away from too much heat. The flavor can get lost quickly by over-cooking these delicate herbs. Throw it in at the end, once your dish is off the heat, or use it in dishes that don't get cooked.
Yes use it as a garnish, but my favorite ways to use parsley is to make a "sauce" out of it. Whether that's a chimicurri, pesto, or gremolata. Make up your own by following this equation: herbs + fat + crunch + salt + citrus = yummy heaven on a plate.
Mix it with a grain (think: Tabbouleh) for an instant grain salad or side dish.
Top it on any type of protein from beef, chicken, fish or tofu. The world is your oyster. Ooo on oysters.
And um, let's not forget to mention that parsley helps minimize bad breath (well then go ahead and spoon in more garlic, please!), is rich in vitamin k (the helping hand in calcium absorption), vitamin C (I think you know this one), among many other wonderful benefits.