Cooking,  Gardening

Fresh Cuts: Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

This is the first post in the series titled Fresh Cuts. Each post features a different kitchen garden herb and fresh ways to add it into your locavore meals. This feature is about one of the most common herbs used in cooking: italian flat leaf parsley.

If you’re going to start a series on fresh-cut herbs, there’s probably no better place to start than with parsley. Gardeners love it for the deep green color, easy care, and long growing season. Cooks like it for its versatility and the curious not-quite-peppery but not-quite-lemony either flavor it adds to dishes. As a locavore, I love it because one plant can produce nearly all the parsley I cook with for an entire year.

Parsley Hedge

So, tell me about this parsley stuff.

Italian flat-leaf parsley Petroselinum neapolitanum, is not to be confused with its less-flavorful curly leafed cousin. It’s a tall, bushy plant, growing up to 8-14 inches tall and up to 18 inches around. The leaves are mostly used in cooking because the stems are tougher and can have a bitter taste.

Parsley Plant in Garden

Can I grow it in Minnesota?

Sure thing. Parsley is grown mostly as an annual in our Zone 4 Minnesota climate. Occasionally it will hold for a second season, but because it grows so easily most gardeners don’t bother trying to winter it. Find a sunny part of the garden or a bright windowsill (6-8 hours of sun each day) and well-drained soil. Parsley needs water at least once a week and should not dry out between watering.


Parsley Plant

Washed Parsley

So I grew your silly plant. Now how am I supposed to know when to pick it?

The plant will grow long stems with fern-shaped leaves sprouting from the top. It’s ready to pick when the stalks are about 12″ long, although I’ve been known to take a few clippings before then without much harm. Clip off the outside stalks first and start close to the ground. If the stalk is left higher up it discourages the plant from continuing to grow new shoots in the middle. (and by the end of the season it’s a pretty homely looking plant!)

If you’re not up for growing it, parsley can be found for $1-2 per bunch at farmers’ markets from mid-May through the first light frosts. One bunch will typically yield about a cup of leaves. Pick bunches with as much stalk as possible (it will hold up better in the chiller box of the refrigerator) and leaves that are firm, dark green and not wilted.

Cut Parsley

Now it’s time to make something with all these fresh cuts. What do you recommend?

There are plenty of ways to add flat leaf parsley into dishes. It tends to be slid to the side of the plate as garnish instead of being the primary player in dishes. Here’s some must-try recipes that feature flat leaf parsley as the star of the show:

Fried Parsley – – Batter and fry parsley stems in hot oil for a few seconds until crisp and golden brown.
Parsley Mint Pesto – – This recipe calls for a whopping 3 cups of flat leaf parsley. Combined with fresh peppers, mint and plenty of garlic it’s a unique twist on a favorite herb pasta dish.
Holy Land Tabbouli – Minneapolis’ own Holy Land You can’t really talk about parsley recipes without mentioning tabbouli. The kitchen partner fell in love with Tabbouli on his 2012 trip to Israel. It’s a summertime favorite at our house now and has a full 2 cups of fresh parsley.
Garlic Roasted Mushrooms with Parsley – Smitten Kitchen We’ve all had parsley buttered red potatoes, why not add parsley to other sides in the same garlicky, buttery, parsley goodness?
Parsley Hummus -Dinner with Julie — Add a big bunch of parsley into the food processor with cooked chickpeas, garlic and olive oil for a herby, green hummus. I love this on fresh veggies or in sandwiches.
Simplest Cucumber Salad with Parsley – In Pursuit of More  The gorgeous pictures say everything about this easy salad. Cucumbers + Parsley + Chives = amazing summer salad.


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