Parsley -- that green, leafy relative of celery -- is often found on plates as a garnish in restaurants. This herb's history as a garnish dates back at least several hundred years, while it has been cultivated for medicinal purposes for more than 2,000. The biennial plant hails from the Mediterranean region.
Besides a random sprig or bunch of parsley placed hastily next to some of the food on a plate, decorative techniques can dress up the entire plate or a dish. Sprinkle small, fresh cuttings of parsley all over a plate before adding the food. Add a dash of fresh parsley to the top of a colorful soup, such as tomato or carrot ginger soup. Dress up baked or mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with a small sprig of parsley. Place a sprig atop a fresh smoothie or juice drink -- after adding some to the beverage itself, of course, as the parsley is packed with nutrients.
Live Plants as Decor
The parsley plant itself can be used as decoration in a garden, flower bed or containers. Both curly and flat-leaf parsley add a bit of beauty as edible landscaping. Mulch helps keep the soil moist, as parsley prefers, and frequent picking of the leaves adds to the health of the plant. The more it's harvested, the more it grows, which is ideal for edible decor. Parsley mixes in well with other plants in both flower and vegetable gardens. Containers of parsley can be kept on a patio or indoors during cool seasons. Move them around to suit your decorative tastes and to get the plants a bit of sunlight each day.
Parsley is high in vitamins A and C and is a natural breath freshener. It's also a source of folic acid, which benefits heart health. Its volatile oils have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animals and neutralize some carcinogens found in cigarette or charcoal grill smoke. Parsley is also a rich source of antioxidants, so there's no reason not to eat it with meals, whether as a garnish or mixed into the foods.
Prepping parsley as a garnish requires cleaning and trimming. Hold the stem while dunking the bunch into cold water, swishing it around to remove dirt. Pat the bunch dry on paper towels. For a lush garnish, break a sprig off, containing several arms or branches so it looks like a miniature plant. For a garnish atop food dishes or soups, bunch the parsley tightly together, stem end facing up, slicing the leaves off with a sharp knife. Cut only what you plan to use, as the parsley stays fresher if still attached to its stems.
If you don't have your own parsley plant to prune at mealtimes, storing fresh purchased parsley is best done under ideal conditions. Fresh parsley keeps well in the refrigerator when stored in a plastic bag or with the stem end cut on a diagonal and placed in a small amount of water and covered with a loose plastic bag before placing in the refrigerator. A splash of cool water helps rejuvenate slightly wilted parsley. To store it for more than a week, chop it as if preparing for a meal, pat it dry, then store it in freezer bags. Alternatively, place small amounts of freshly cut parsley into an ice cube tray, filling each spot with a little water, then freeze.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images