Eat your parsley for St. Patrick’s Day

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Today’s Special

Today’s special is green, for it is St. Patrick’s Day. And I do hope you’re wearing some somewhere. You can bet I am, it is my favorite color.  And as usual for this day, I’ve been scouting out good green things. The color green is almost like a breath and taste of fresh air.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Parsley is just that, but first a story.  My consumer economics teacher at Mississippi State was an older lady, well, older than most of us college juniors at the time. And she seemed to me rather, shall we say “hippy-ish,” though she didn’t wear beads or have flowers in her hair.  Maybe she was an early “environmentalist”.

I remember how she looked with her white hair and no makeup and rather “chilled” disposition. I liked her.

I remember two points from her class: first she said it wasn’t necessary to wash your hair twice as instructed in shampoo directions. That was just to make you buy more, more often; she countered that once was enough to get your hair clean. Your shampoo would last twice as long and there’d be half the amount of shampoo bottles in the trash.

Her other memorable point was about parsley. She recommended that we always eat the parsley garnish on our plates.

And she was right, parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and contains chlorophyll (this is where the green comes from), so chewing fresh parsley leaves knocks out bad breath from garlic and onion. I can’t look at a sprig of parsley without remembering her class.

Maybe that’s why ancient peoples thought that parsley would ward off drunkenness, though that’s an idea never proven. But parsley has proven over the millennia to be a complimentary addition to any food. It has a fresh subtle peppery flavor that enhances anything it is added to. And it’s so pretty and green.

Research tells me that there are over 30 varieties of this herb. I’m only familiar with 2. Seems that Americans prefer the curly leaf variety, probably because it was used as a garnish to bring a touch of green to plates for decades.

The flat-leaf variety isn’t as good looking but it does boast a richer taste. (When buying the flat leaf kind, double check that you’re not getting cilantro which looks very similar but has a most different flavor which is not a substitute for parsley).  Flat leaf parsley is often labeled as Italian parsley and definitely has a more distinctive flavor than the curly leafed kind.

Buy parsley by the bunch. Make sure it’s not wilted and doesn’t have any yellowed stems. Place the whole bunch in a small glass or jar of water to keep it hydrated and fresh if you plan to use it quickly, otherwise rinse it off with a spray of fresh cold water, shake off the excess moisture and wrap it in paper towels. Store it in a zip-top storage bag for safe keeping in the refrigerator up to one week. Curly parsley is easy to find in the grocery store, but sometimes you have to hunt for the flat leaf variety. I have learned that the curly kind will substitute for the flat leafed variety (minus a little flavor), but not vice-versa.

Dried parsley is good to use in casseroles and long cooking soups and stews but it’s not a good substitute when freshness matters, like in a salad.  It’s best when added to the last 20 minutes of cooking time in soups, etc.  I also like to add about 1 tablespoon of dried parsley to one and a half pounds of ground beef when making hamburger patties, but fresh minced parsley works, too.

Try adding dried parsley flakes to creamed potatoes or to boiled whole new potatoes seasoned with butter, lemon zest and paprika. That would be so good to go with your cooked cabbage and corned beef today.

Grow it. Parsley, like most herbs, is from the Mediterranean region of the world and loves heat, sun, and garden soil so it thrives in our summers. The only problem, which really isn’t a problem, is that caterpillars love fresh parsley too, every last bite of it. But that’s okay because those parsley eating machines turn into beautiful butterflies.  I’m willing to sacrifice a parsley plant for that, I think my earth-loving consumer econ teacher would approve.

Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Recipe of the Week

Shrimp & Parslied Pasta

12 ounces spaghetti, or angel hair pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup fresh lemon juice, divided

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons minced garlic

8 ounces softened cream cheese, cubed

¼ cup white wine, optional

Fresh chopped fresh curly parsley

Cook pasta per package directions, drain and set aside. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp quickly, stirring only until pink about 4 minutes.  Toss cooked shrimp with ¼ cup lemon juice and melted butter to coat.  Place cooked shrimp in another bowl; set aside. In same skillet add another tablespoon olive oil, heat but not to smoking point.  Add garlic and cook for only 30 seconds, do not burn. Add other ¼ cup lemon juice and cream cheese.  Whisk until well blended and melted.  Whisk in about ¼ cup white wine if too thick.  Toss pasta and shrimp with sauce. Coat evenly, gently reheating pasta and shrimp. Season with fresh cracked black pepper.  Sprinkle each serving with fresh chopped parsley.