Chow Town

Parsley: The ignored table garnish

How many times have you gone out to eat, picked up the “green curly stuff” with your fingers and drop it onto your bread plate or on the table not realizing it was part of the dinner?

Little did you know that the cook or chef was providing you with wonderful nutrients that were probably better for you than the other food on your plate?

Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It derives its name from the Greek work meaning “rock celery” (parsley is a relative to celery). It is a biennial plant that will return to the garden year after year once it is established.

The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety. There is also another type of parsley known as turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) that is cultivated for its roots, which resemble salsify and burdock.

While parsley is a wonderfully nutritious and healing food, it is often under-appreciated. Parsley is actually a storehouse of nutrients and features a delicious green and vibrant taste. It has two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits — volatile oil components and flavonoids.

The activity of parsley’s volatile oils qualifies it as a “chemoprotective”food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens, like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke.

In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of two vital nutrients that are also important for the prevention of many diseases: vitamin C and vitamin A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene).

Parsley is a good source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. While it plays numerous roles in the body, one of its most critical roles in relation to cardiovascular health is its necessary participation in the process through which the body converts homocysteine into benign molecules.

Homocysteine is a potentially dangerous molecule that, at high levels, can directly damage blood vessels. High levels are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attach and stroke in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Enjoying food rich in folic acid, like parsley, is an especially good idea for individuals who either have or wish to prevent, these diseases.

Since it has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, Italian flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking and therefore is usually the type preferred for hot dishes. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value.

Parsley is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amount of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems, for this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems, may want to avoid eating parsley. This is something you might want to discuss with your doctor if you eat lots of parsley.

So, next time parsley appears on your plate as a garnish, recognize its true worth and partake of its abilities to improve your health. As an added bonus, you’ll also enjoy parsley’s legendary ability to cleanse your palate and your breath at the end of your meal.

Tuna Salad Surprise

You will love this unique way of preparing a tuna salad with no mayonnaise. It’s a perfect Healthiest Way of Eating for a light dinner or lunch and provides an excellent 106% of the daily value for those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids. Enjoy!

2 6 1/2-ounce cans of light tuna, drained
1/4 cup finely diced celery 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1/4 cup finely minced onion Salt and black pepper to taste 1 medium head romaine lettuce (chopped) 1 small tomato, chopped, seeds and excess pulp removed


3 medium cloves garlic, pressed 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon honey 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup sunflower seeds 4 ounces of silken tofu 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil A little water to thin if necessary To prepare:

Mince onions and press garlic and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to bring out their health-promoting benefits. Blend dressing ingredients in blender adding oil a little at a time at end, slowly incorporating it with the other ingredients. Blend well to make sure sunflower seeds are ground and smooth in texture. Mix tuna, celery, walnuts, parsley, onion, salt, and pepper in a seperate bowl. Add the desired amount of dressing with tuna mixture. Serve on bed of chopped romaine lettuce with chopped tomato.


Donna Cook

Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.