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Crop of the week: Parsley
• Yuma County produces more than 200 acres of fresh parsley, grown to meet the needs for the fresh market and restaurants throughout the U.S.
• In 2005, Arizona ranked fifth in the U.S. for parsley production, contributing approximately 3 percent of the nation's parsley. Between the years of 1998 and 2002, Arizona produced approximately 125 acres of parsley with an average of 118,440 cartons per year.
• Usually a garnish, parsley is also used in soups, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, fish dishes and sandwich fillings. It's often added to French, Italian and Greek dishes. The ancient Romans combined parsley with cheese and bread for meals.
• This Mediterranean herb belongs to the carrot family, is popular in northern Europe, and came belatedly to North America in the 19th century.
• Harvesting of parsley can begin as early as October and is usually completed by the end of March. It can be harvested multiple times, usually two or three times a season. After harvesting the leaves, the plant is watered and allowed to grow back so it can be harvested again.
• Parsley is hand-harvested and is trimmed, washed and tied into bunches in the field, then placed on wax cardboard boxes.
• A large percentage of grown parsley is delivered directly to institutional customers (restaurants, hotels, etc.) or is sent to be dehydrated.
• Parsley, an herb, contains calcium, iron and vitamins A, B and C.
• Fresh parsley may be stored for up to two months if kept at 33 degrees and high relative humidity. Keep wet or store in an air-tight bag.
• There are two types of parsley, those with curly, fringed leaves, and Italian parsley, which has flat leaves.
• To disinfect and soothe insect bites, apply a crushed paste of parsley leaves.
• Parsley contains a great deal of chlorophyll, which makes it a natural cure for bad breath.
• The early Greeks placed crowns made of parsley on the heads of the winners of the Nemena sports games.
• Parsley is used in the Hebrew celebration of Passover as a symbol of spring and rebirth.