PARSLEY oil from Tasmania supplies the world.
I have a personal interest in parsley. We set up Parsley Farm when we came here from WA in 1979, following on from a successful period selling herbs at the Fremantle Market.
We started off selling about 20 different herbs but it soon became obvious that parsley and chives were the big sellers and accounted for 90 per cent of sales, with parsley accounting for 90pc of that fraction.
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Essential Oils of Tasmania (EOT) steam distil the herb and the seeds to produce over 6000kg of oil each year, which they export to 12 countries. To quote from their website:
“EOT’s competitive position as the world’s largest producer of parsley herb oil stems from the perfect environmental conditions provided by North-East Tasmania,” it says.
“Parsley thrives in the cool temperate climate of this region. With regular rainfall and a clean environment close to the Bass Strait, Tasmania’s ideal latitude and resultant day length and the lack of endemic diseases or soil and water contaminants allows for intensely aromatic and complex high- quality oils.
I nipped out to the garden and picked some parsley to add to the meal. John was amazed by the taste, but then he’s from Sydney – he found it hard to believe it was the same herb that he was used to.
“The Parsley Oils capture the perfectly clean aroma of freshly cut parsley.”
I vividly remember enjoying a meal with John McKay, the manufacturer of the seaweed extract Ectol which we were (and still are) using on our crops.
I nipped out to the garden and picked some parsley to add to the meal. John was amazed by the taste, but then he’s from Sydney – he found it hard to believe it was the same herb that he was used to. Getting back to the EOT comment about Tasmania’s “ideal latitude and resultant daylength”, Sydney has a latitude of about 34 degrees south, whereas Spalford in Tasmania is about 41 degrees south.
Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2000 years. It’s interesting that it was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food. We now know that there are two types of chemicals with medicinal activity.
The first are the volatile oil components, such as myristicin, which inhibits tumour formation, particularly in the lungs, by helping neutralize particular types of carcinogens such as benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke. The second are the flavonoids, such as luteolin, which help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells
The flavour John was so impressed by is due mainly to a compound which rejoices in the name of 1,3,8-p-menthatriene.
It was described as tasting “oily, terpy, camphorous, cooling, thymol, woody and pine with a slight citrus nuance” by Veronica Hislop, a chemistry student when studying at Ryerson University in the USA (Check her out on the web).
I’ve no idea how difficult or easy it is to isolate and measure it, but assuming it can be done without too much effort, this makes it possible to put a number on parsley flavour.
You could do taste tests and get volunteers to score parsley grown at different latitudes on a one to five scale, where one is flavourless and five is very flavoursome but it would be more objective to relate an analytical number to those latitudes
You could then do market comparisons – “Launceston parsley has 30 per cent more flavour molecules than Sydney parsley”.
There’s a Ph.D project there for someone.
- Dr Mike Walker is a long time correspondent for Good Fruit & Vegetables.