Parsley pursuits

I mentioned in my last post that I had dug a lot of parsley out of the garden bed where I have now planted carrots. Parsley is definitely a crop I’d suggest to any beginner grower, it is easy to grow, prolific and pretty tough. All the parsley currently growing in our garden has self-seeded. In Canberra parsley does die back over winter but in the warmer, frost-free parts of the country I’m sure you’d keep it growing through winter as well.

Digging up the parsley was the easy bit, working out what to do with it was a bit harder. It’s here that I have to confess that our ‘home-grower’ halo sometimes gets a bit tarnished. You see we don’t always use up everything we grow in our garden. Excess and dodgy plants are generally given as extra food to the chickens who eat up the good bits and then turn the  rest into lovely eggs and equally useful compostable chook poo. Unfortunately chickens don’t like parsley (or at least our girls don’t).

After picking I had two main parts I could use, the leaves and the roots
After picking I had two main parts I could use, the leaves and the roots

I decided that I wanted to do more than just dry the leaves – we have more than enough dried parsley for our needs. I decided to make pesto with the leaves. Instead of pine nuts I used raw cashews in the recipe. Apart from that I followed a standard pesto recipe (see below). They key thing was that I prepared the pesto with the nuts, garlic and oil, but without the cheese, so I could freeze it for when I wanted to use it later.

Pre-made pesto  ready to go in the freezer, minus the cheese
Pre-made pesto ready to go in the freezer, minus the cheese

The roots were a trickier proposition. We have an easy test for the edibility of root vegetables at Chez Fork. If you can’t slice it with a knife, then your teeth won’t cut it either so ditch the root. I also tried the simple technique of snapping the roots and it was immediately clear that the larger roots had a tough woody core that no amount of cooking would soften. I thought that I might just get away with using the thinner roots. My plan was to make a mash of the roots, but as I’d had to give up on the larger tough roots I now had to bulk out the small amount I had left.

Luckily we did have some potatoes and the chooks had managed to dig up a fair number of this years Jerusalem Artichokes, so I steamed all of the veggies (not including the chooks) together before turning them into what I hoped would be mashed yumminess. Sadly it turned out that the cores of the smaller parsley roots were also too woody to cook to softness. The one saving grace was that the outer part of the parsley root easily came away from the core so I could still include a small amount of it in my mash. In the end there wasn’t enough parsley root to be detected in the mash, though you could taste the Jerusalem artichokes. This is probably one experiment that no-one else needs to replicate, unless you are truly needing every last bit of vegetable for a meal.

This weekend we did get to try the pesto and I can definitely recommend it. We had a small , very light lunch of it (having pigged out big time the previous evening).

Parsley and cashew pesto on oricchette pasta
Parsley and cashew pesto on oricchette pasta

Parsley and cashew pasta sauce 

(yields approx. 450grams of pesto sauce)

(This recipe is based on proportions so you can use whatever your amount of leaves you have as the basis for working out the amount of the other key ingredients. That is  1 portion of leaves by cup measure, to 1/2 a portion of nuts, to 1/4 a portion of oil).

2 cups of parsley leaves picked over and washed, (remove any tough stems)
1 cup of raw unsalted cashew nuts (or whatever nuts you prefer)
1/2 a cup of olive oil (or oil of your preference)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 a cup of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (you can modify the amount to suit your taste preference)

Place leaves, nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse to start cutting the mix together. Slowly add oil and continue to process until the required consistency is reached. I would suggest that you add the oil in small amounts as you may not need the full amount to reach your preferred consistency.

If you are freezing the mix: Place the mix as it is into a suitable container or freezer bag and freeze until needed. Once the pesto has been frozen it should still be easy to cut off a smaller amount if you don’t want to use it all at once.

After de-frosting add the grated cheese to your pesto and then toss through freshly cooked pasta.

If you are using the pesto straightaway: add the cheese into the food processor, pulse to incorporate it then toss the pesto through freshly cooked pasta.pasta.

Suggestions: The pesto can also be spread on toast, or used to flavour chicken or other meats and vegetables.