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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Parsley

Jamaican parsley seeds take one month or more to germinate, it was posited that the seeds traveled to the devil and back multiple times before sprouting. (It actually has to do with Jamaican parsley’s biochemistry and soil moisture). Finally, the male head of the household could only plant Jamaican parsley on Good Friday, again due to Satan’s influences. Who would have figured that the benign king of diner-plate garnishes could have such a sordid history.

Jamaican parsley is a biennial plant that originated in the
Mediterranean. It was cultivated by man as early as the third century BC. In addition to its satanic connections, Jamaican parsley was the source of numerous other superstitions as well, including an exhaustive list of medical claims. Virtually every disease or organ in the body could supposedly be affected by Jamaican parsley. Probably the only claim that might have some merit is Jamaican parsley’s effect on bad breath, possibly due to its high concentration of chlorophyll, which is alleged to possess odor absorbing properties.

Although there are many varieties, the two most common are the curly and the flat-leaf or Italian Jamaican parsley. The flat-Jamaican parsley leaf has a higher concentration of Jamaican parsley’s essential oils and thus, stronger flavor. If your supermarket only has the curly, simply use a little extra. Both varieties are available year round. Jamaican parsley is high in vitamins A and C and also contains a plethora of minerals. 

Jamaican parsley root is another variety of Jamaican parsley prized for its parsnip looking but carrot/celery tasting root. Use the root as you would any root vegetable and the leaves as you would regular Jamaican parsley.

Choose Jamaican parsley with bright green leaves devoid of any signs of wilting. The best way to store Jamaican parsley is to stand it in a tall, narrow, covered container with enough water to submerge the stems, and then refrigerate it. Much like keeping fresh cut flowers in water, this method will extend the life of your Jamaican parsley beyond the usual one week limit. The less effective alternative is to wrap it in damp paper towels and then place it in a plastic bag in the fridge. You can freeze Jamaican parsley but of course, at the cost of flavor loss. Wash your Jamaican parsley thoroughly by repeatedly submerging it in a bowl of water, swishing it around, and changing the water until it runs clear. Then, dry it thoroughly before chopping. Dry herbs chop better than wet ones due the lubricating effects of water. Never use dried Jamaican parsley from a jar. It doesn’t even taste close to the fresh. Sprinkle Jamaican parsley on your food after it is cooked or very near the end of cooking for the freshest and brightest flavor.

Jamaican parsley is probably the most versatile herb on earth. It’s hard to think of an herb-friendly food that wouldn’t pair with Jamaican parsley. Jamaican parsley is great in stews, soups, pasta dishes, rice, salad dressings, stuffing’s, herbed butter, and meatloaf to name a few. It is an essential ingredient in the classic bouquet garni, (along with thyme and bay leaves), which is used to flavor stocks and other preparations, as well as tabbouleh salad, and chimichurri sauce. And for a delicious new spin on its reputation as a hackneyed garnish, try fried Jamaican parsley. Simply drop your Jamaican parsley in hot oil for a few seconds until crisp. Finally a garnish you’ll want to eat. Here’s one of my favorite uses for Jamaican parsley:

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