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A long-time mainstay in European and Middle Eastern cuisine, parsley is now used around the world as a subtle, herbaceous addition to a wide range of cuisines. The ancient Romans and ancient Greeks both used parsley in death ceremonies as a way to mask the scent. Today, parsley is best known as a versatile, fresh addition to sauces, salads, and any dish that could use a pop of color and a touch of herbal flavor.

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What Is Parsley?

Parsley, also known as Petroselinum crispum, is a member of the Apiaceae family. This leafy herb originated in the Mediterranean region and is still used heavily in the cuisines of the area. Although the exact origin of the parsley plant is unknown, this biennial has been grown for centuries in areas of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, and beyond. The herb’s Latin name comes from the Greek word “petro,” meaning stone, as parsley was said to have first grown in the rock-covered hills of Greece.

What Does Parsley Taste Like?

Available in both fresh and dried form, parsley has a bright, herbaceous, and slightly bitter taste that serves as a contrast to emphasize the other flavors in a dish, similar to lemon zest. Primarily known as a garnish, parsley adds an attractive pop of green color and vegetal flavor, making it the perfect final touch in the cooking process.

4 Different Types of Parsley

Although the most commonly used forms of parsley are flat-leaf and curly parsley, there are four varieties altogether. The different types of parsley include:

  1. Flat-Leaf - The most popular form of culinary parsley, this leafy green herb has a fresh, slightly bitter taste that makes it a great garnish. The most common type of flat-leaf parsley, Italian parsley, has a slightly peppery taste and a similar appearance to cilantro. Other varieties of flat-leaf parsley include Titan and Giant of Italy.
  2. Curly Leaf - A milder tasting variety of parsley, recognizable by its ruffled leaves and bright green color. Varieties of curly leaf parsley include Forest Green and Extra Curled Dwarf parsley.
  3. Hamburg (ak.a Parsley Root) - A variety of parsley native to Germany, recognizable by its larger leaves and thick roots. The leaves of Hamburg parsley are used ornamentally, rather than for cooking, while the roots are used to flavor stews and soups.
  4. Japanese Parsley - A bitter-tasting type of parsley native to Japan and China, with thick stems that can be eaten alone.

What Are the Health Benefits of Parsley?

Taken from the petroselinum plant, parsley is a good source of many beneficial active ingredients, like antioxidant flavonoids and phenolic compounds, in addition to its exceedingly high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A from beta carotene, a pigment that also gives the plant its vibrant tone. This herb is also a great source of amino acid and folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins.

How to Cook With Parsley

Fresh parsley brightens the presentation and flavor of dishes ranging from soups to sauces.

  • To garnish. Fresh parsley has long been considered an ideal garnish, thanks to its vibrant, leafy appearance and herbaceous taste that serves to emphasize other flavors. For this reason, fresh parsley is most commonly chopped and added at the end of cooking, as prolonged heat exposure causes the flavors of parsley to deteriorate quickly.
  • In bouquet garni. In addition to its main role as a garnish, parsley is also a common ingredient in the French bouquet garni, a traditional bundle of fresh herbs that is tied together and placed in soups, stews, braises, and sauces to infuse an herbal flavor into dishes.
  • As a base. Parsley is also the primary ingredient in the popular South American condiment chimichurri, a vibrant green sauce made with fresh parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic.

On the other hand, dried parsley is recommended to be used throughout the cooking process, as the concentrated flavors in the dried herb need time to marinade and mellow before serving. Chefs also use parsley as a great flavorful addition to red sauces, ground meat dishes, and herb-laced bread doughs.