Parsley
Herb Growing in South Africa

© Louise Brodie
Flat-leaf parsley

Scientific name: Umbelliferae
Common Name: Parsley

The Parsley plant originated in southern Europe and North Africa. Today it is planted throughout the world for its fresh and dried leaves. There are two main types of parsley, the curly leaf parsley (Crispum) which is a slightly tougher plant, and the more delicate Italian flat-leaf parsley (Neapolitanum).

Plant Description

The parsley plant is a biennial plant producing fragrant, delicate and tasty leaves the first year and, if allowed to grow into the second year, will go to seed. It has a strong taproot that is quite tasty if harvested the second year after the seed has been harvested. The parsley bush grows to about 40 cm tall and produces a number of thin delicate stems topped by the cluster of leaf.

The light green scallop like leaves of Italian flat-leaf parsley are soft and thin and is preferred by most chefs. The curly leaf parsley leaves are slightly tougher but equally tasty and can be used to adorn dishes as a display because they look fresher for longer.

Most producers will grow parsley as an annual and replant every year.

Uses

Parsley is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, which are used fresh or dried in cooking as a flavouring or eaten raw in salads.

Parsley is also known for its high vitamin C content.

Soil Requirements and Preparation

Parsley does best in well-drained sandy loam to loam soils that are high in organic matter. It grows best in soils with a pH of 6 to 7.

When preparing the soil in the plant area it is essential to add enough organic manure or compost to the soil. This should be ploughed in a month before planting to give the compost time to settle and any weeds chance to germinate. The ground must then be disc harrowed in the week prior to planting to clear the weeds again and smooth the plant area. Lightly till in the pre-plant fertilizer and trace elements a day or two before planting parsley.

Climate

Parsley grows best in temperatures between 14°C and 26°C. It requires a soil germination temperature of 15 to 20°C. The plant is slightly resistant to frost.

Cultivars

For commercial production some popular parsley cultivars are: Banquet, Champion, Evergreen, Italian curled, Italian Flat, Moss, Pagoda and Triple Curl.

It is best to seek local advice on the growing practices from a reputable seed company on what the best variety is for the conditions and intended market.

It is best to know the market for parsley prior to production.

By Louise Brodie