Anyone who spends any time in the kitchen, whether domestically or professionally, will be very familiar with parsley. This herb is one of the most widely used cooking ingredients across the United States and beyond and is a versatile addition or garnish to many dishes.
There are over 30 parsley varieties worldwide, including Japanese, Hamburg, Cilantro, curly, and Italian (flat-leaved) parsley. Even so, we are typically exposed to two main types – Italian parsley and curly (regular) parsley. The differences between these two types of parsley become clear when we investigate such qualities as the shape of their leaves, flavor, cooking methods, and general usefulness.
As a cook, it’s always a good idea to understand the ingredients you’re working with and how they might influence your finished dish. That’s what we’ll be doing in this piece, so read on for more. We’ll be taking a closer look at what differentiates these two types of parsley and why this herb, generally speaking, should always have a place in your stock of kitchen suppliers.
Italian Parsley vs Regular Parsley: Differences
While the differences between the varieties of parsley strains out there might be considered minimal, the subtle differences can be very pertinent for anyone handling it in the kitchen. What we’ve listed below are some of the more obvious notable changes to help you know what you’re dealing with and what to expect:
The first and most obvious difference between these two herbs is the shape of their leaves. While the Curly-leaf parsley plant (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) sports thick, curly, ruffled leaves, while the Italian variety has broader, flat leaves. It’s useful to note here that Italian parsley is named that way because of its origins in the country, not because it only grows there.
Both of these types of parsley share a lot of traits in common when it comes to their taste profile since many of the compounds that determine taste are found in both of them. These compounds include phellandrene, myrcene, myristicin, and menthatrine. The particular balance of these compounds is what will make Italian parsley acquire a bold, aromatic taste. In contrast, regular parsley is more muted, grasslike, and will grow bitter as time goes on.
There is a subtle difference in the color of parsley leaves from one type to another. Italian parsley sports a range of colors going from bright green to dark green, while curly-leaf parsley is typically a bright shade of green.
Usefulness and Uses
There are two main roles that parsley of all types can play in the kitchen. Aside from the obvious addition to the food itself on the stove, it may also be used to garnish or decorate food. Garnishing involves placing a few plant leaves on top of the finished dish before serving. Many cooks, however, prefer to use Italian parsley in their cooking because of its robust flavor and use curly parsley, which is weaker-tasting, for garnishing purposes.
All types of parsley should be cooked relatively delicately as exposure to excessive heat for too long will denature the delicate herbs and diminish their natural essence. It’s typically recommended that cooks introduce fresh parsley to a dish in the last few minutes of the cooking process or use dried parsley to avoid this and give the parsley adequate time to soak into or permeate throughout the dish.
Italian Parsley vs Regular Parsley: Benefits of Italian Parsley
While the benefits of using parsley in your cooking will be pretty much the same when using different types of parsley, let’s take a closer look at what benefits Italian parsley has for human beings.
Antioxidants are compounds that help the human body prevent the cellular damage that free radicals in our systems cause. This damage eventually leads to disease and inflammation. Italian parsley, to be specific, contains significant levels of antioxidants known as flavonoids that have been credited with a reduction in rates of heart disease, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Supplies Essential Nutrients
Parsley is a herb that packs a considerable punch when it comes to nutritional value. A 30 gram serving of parsley, for instance, will contain significant amounts of essential nutrients such as fiber, carbohydrates, potassium, protein, as well as Vitamins A and C.
Promotes Bone Health
However sturdy they may be, our bones require consistent nutrients to maintain their strength and integrity. This is important for people of all ages but is especially critical for the elderly and growing children. Parsley is a rich source of Vitamin K, an excellent agent of bone development.
Supports Eye Health
Carotenoids are compounds that play important roles in boosting and maintaining healthy eyes and optimal vision. The carotenoids in parsley include beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Such nutrients become especially important with age, as humans tend to become prone to conditions such as AMD (Age-related Muscular Degeneration), which is a notorious cause of blindness not only in the United States but worldwide.
There are certain natural compounds that have been shown to help reduce the chances of developing cancer in human beings. These anticancer agents include flavonoid antioxidants and vitamins such as vitamin C. One of the ways they achieve this effect is by mitigating the occurrence of oxidative stress in our bodies, which is one of the precursors of cancer.
Italian Parsley vs Regular Parsley: Final Thoughts
Parsley makes for a great addition to any pantry and will add a special touch to many dishes, whether as a cooking ingredient or garnish. This versatile herb can be used in numerous dishes such as meats, herb-infused bread, baked goods, meatballs, Italian Gremolata, and Chimichurri, as well as a variety of vibrant soups and sauces.
Don’t get too caught up in the differences between Italian and curly (regular) parsley, as your particular taste might prefer one over the other. Try out a couple of different types and find out what works for you best. That, after all, is what cooking is all about.
Related article: What herbs can be planted together?