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Using Fresh Parsley as a Garnish

Rochelle spends as much time in the kitchen as she does at a keyboard. It's no surprise that cooking and food are favorite article subjects.

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Parsley Stems? Eeeek! What Is This Fuzzy Green Thing on My Plate?

The custom of decorating a dinner plate with a sprig of parsley supposedly came from a French control-freak uber-chef who would not let any platter, salver, or charger leave his kitchen without his personal inspection.

The parsley placement ploy was his indication that the plate was ready to be served.

The parsley principle caught on big time, and dinners ever since have been decorated this way in fancy eateries as well as in greasy-spoon diners.

It became so ordinary that it is now considered to be old-fashioned.

The parsley garnish has become a such a culinary cliché that many upscale restaurants have banned it in favor of much fancier and inventive decorations, such as the tempura-fried filigree of butterfly wing.

Every Plate Needs Something Green.

Roulades of beef, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut. The parsley perks it up.

Roulades of beef, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut. The parsley perks it up.

Reasons I Use Parsley

Well I'm sorry. I would rather chew my parsley then eschew it.

Here's why:

  1. The flavor is fresh. It goes so well with potatoes, rice, and almost all kinds of fish, poultry, or meat, as well as stews, soups, and casseroles. This freshness is especially appreciated in the winter when fewer fresh greens of good quality are available.
  2. It makes other food look better. That bright green color does a lot to make a dinner plate look appealing.
  3. I like to see my little parsley bouquet on the windowsill. (See first photo.)
  4. Most important, It is nutritious. A small sprig of parsley is the equivalent of a regular serving of vegetables. It is high in vitamins, C, A , B, K, and iron . It is a good source of folic acid, antioxidants, and other nutrients. (If you have kidney or gall bladder problems—you might want to avoid too much parsley because of the oxyates that might lead to stone formation.) I like both Italian and curly parsley. I think the flat-leaf Italian kind has more flavor for cooking. Curly looks "cuter."
Salmon, sugar snap peas, brown rice, and orange slices. Even when you  already have something green, it helps.

Salmon, sugar snap peas, brown rice, and orange slices. Even when you already have something green, it helps.

Use the best stems to put in a vase. Choose sturdy, crisp stems.

Use the best stems to put in a vase. Choose sturdy, crisp stems.

How to Tell If Parsley Is Fresh and How to Keep It Fresh

First of all, make sure it is fresh when you buy it.

If it is limp, yellowish, has lots of soil on it, or smells funny, skip it. You would be better off using dried parsley, which is a poor substitute (though it still has some nutritional value).
The leaves should be deep green. The stems should be crisp, firm, long, and unbroken. It is best to find parsley with sturdy stems. If they are thin, the plants in your vase will wilt quickly.

You can keep it fresh by placing it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but I like to keep it, at least some of it, in a little vase on the kitchen windowsill. It keeps just as long, looks pretty, and is handy to use. To keep it in a vase or glass of water, you basically treat the parsley like cut flowers.

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First, I sort out the stems and select the thickest, sturdiest ones. If some of them are skinny, limp, broken or very short, I discard those pieces, or immediately use them.

Gather up the selected sturdy stems and snip off the cut ends in a bowl of water. If you cut them while they are under water, they will not have an 'air bubble' in the stem that can restrict the upward flow of water to keep the parsley fresh.

Keep the water level in the glass or vase, above the bottom of the stems. The cut stems in a vase should keep well for a week or more. Take a peek at the bottoms of the stems now and then. If they are turning brown take them out and trim them again, under water.

Some people say you can add a little sugar or clear carbonated beverage to the water but I don't think this is necessary. I haven't tried it. I like to keep mine in a tall skinny clear crystal or glass vase so I can easily see the water level.

The level will decrease as the leaves transpire and dry. Make sure the stems are in the water and trim the stems when they start to get brown on the lower edge.

Keep the ends under water when you trim, so air bubbles won't form in the stems and keep water from being absorbed.

Keep the ends under water when you trim, so air bubbles won't form in the stems and keep water from being absorbed.

What About Live Plants?

Now, some people will say, "Can't I just keep a potted living parsley plant on my windowsill?"

By all means! If you have the right conditions of temperature and light (It likes about five hours of sunlight a day), and remember to water it on a regular basis, it's a great idea.

Of course, you will have to be careful not to cut too many stems and wait for it to grow out. It also needs a deep pot because the plant develops a long taproot.

Many and various health benefits have been ascribed to parsley from inhibiting tumors to freshening breath.

It is native to the Mediterranean areas of Europe, though most commercially grown parsley now comes from California.

The ancient Greeks considered the plant to be sacred. They used it medicinally, and if it didn't work, they also used it to decorate tombs. I like it better for decorating plates.

So Many Uses....

You can put it in your soup-- before and after cooking.

You can put it in your soup-- before and after cooking.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I sprinkle dried parsley on my rice or soup?

Answer: Yes, you can.

Question: How much is one serving of parsley?

Answer: Parsley is strong-tasting, and is rarely used as a side dish on its own. It is more likely to be used as a garnish or an ingredient. Even a tablespoon, or so, of chopped parsley sprinkled over potatoes or another vegetable, can add a significant amount of nutrients, especially vitamins A and K.

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