After my sad failure with my chard and my spinach (no, they never did get any bigger than in the sad little picture I posted back in May – although I have since been assured that no-one in their right mind would try to grow chard from seed except in the greenhouse as the young shoots are both delicate and temperametal – but maybe they were just being nice to me…) I am now into parsley! Not that I am attempting to grow it from seed – I understand that it is even more recaltricant than chard – but bought six nice little pots from Columbia Road flower market.
I must admit that I did think of giving up altogether on edibles as my pale-green fingers (as far as flowers are concerned) seem to turn a deathly black everytime I go near anything you can eat. Even the very healthy pot of thyme I bought three weeks ago now has several dead branches and looks distinctly under the weather. But then I thought how wonderful fresh parsley tastes and smells, picked straight from the garden – just a totally different herb from the vigorous, but scent and largely taste-free stuff you buy in a shop. So I am trying again – and they still do look healthy, although I did only plant them last night!
The Garden Parsley is not indigneous to Britain: Linnaeus stated its wild habitat to be Sardinia, when it was brought to England in 1548. Since its introduction to these islands it has been completely naturalised in various parts of England and Scotland on old walls and rocks.
The Greeks held Parlsey in high esteem, crowning the victors with chaplets of Parsley at the Isthmian games and making with it wreaths to adorn the tombs of their dead. The herb was never brought to the table of old being held sacred to oblivion and the dead…. it was said to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero….
…Turner says: ‘if parsley is thrown into fishponds it will healthe sick fishes therein’….
The Hamburg, or turnip-rooted Parsley, is grown for the sake of its enlarged fleshy tap-root…. Miller, in his Gardeners’ Dictionary (1771) says:
‘This is now pretty commonly sold inthe London markets, the root being six times as large as the common Parsley. This sort was many years cultivated in Holland before the English gardeners could be be prevailed upon to sow it…’ (They obviously did not think much of it when they did finally sow it as it is unknown today.)
Gerard in his Herbal, says: ‘Garden Parsele is delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomache. The roots or seeds boiled in ale and drank, cast forth strong venome or poyson; but the seed is the strongest part of the herb.’
The plant is said to be fatal to small birds and deadly poison to parrots, also very injurious to fowls, but hares and rabbits will come from a great distance to seek for it, so that it is scarcely possible to preserve it in gardens to which they have access. Sheep are also fond of it, and it is said to be a sovereign remedy to preserve them from footrot, provided it is given in sufficient quantities.
Whatever about preserving us from footrot, you should also know that parsley contains measurable quantities of oxalates so should be avoided by anyone with kidney or gallbladder problems. But, for the rest of us, it is an excellent source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E and K, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and pantothenic acid, not to mention the flavanoids aplin, apigenin, cirsoeriol and luteolin and volatile oil components myristicin, limonene, eugenol and alpha-thujene…
And, is it is, of course, one of the essential elements in that wonderful Italian soffritto, ‘the point of departure‘, according to my Italian food guru, Anne del Conte in her Gastronomy of Italy, ‘for innumerable Italian dishes. A soffritto normally consists of a little onion, a little celery plus some carrot and garlic, a handful of herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary and others – and maybe a slice or small piece of pancetta, all very finely chopped and gently sautéed in oil and/or butter until just beginnng to colour. When the soffritto is ready, the meat, fish or vegetables are mixed in.
The word soffritto comes from sotto frigere, to under-fry i.e. to fry very gently. When Italian recipes are given in English, soffritto is often left in Italian as there is nosingle word in English with the same meaning.’
But, mainly, straight from your garden, is just smells and tastes divine…
Some suggestions for what you could do with it? Well, how about Carrot and parsley salad, Quinoa-stuffed trout fillets, Summer omelette or just plain old Parsley and potato soup? Or, if you want to go down the soffritto route, try any one of Anna’s great Italian cookbooks in which, maybe surprisingly, a large proportion of the dishes are, by nature, both gluten and dairy free.