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Parsley

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  • Vegetables and herbs
Petroselinum crispum (gr. Neapolitanum) 'Laura'
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)
Petroselinum crispum (gr. Neapolitanum) 'Laura'
  • Petroselinum crispum (gr. Neapolitanum) 'Laura'
  • Petroselinum crispum (gr. Crispum) 'Forest Green'

Onglets

Botany

Origin and description

Parsley is a biennial. The first year, it forms a rosette of dark green leaves that grows to about 30 cm. The next year, if it survives the winter, it produces a floral stalk and seeds, and then dies.

Curled parsley, Petroselinum crispum (gr. Crispum), has deeply divided, curly leaves. Flat-leaved parsley, Petroselinum crispum (gr. Neapolitanum), also called Italian parsley, forms a clump of dark green leaves shaped like celery leaves.

Italian parsley is more flavourful than curled parsley. It is slightly slower to fade after harvesting. It is less hardy and less decorative, however, and flowers more readily than curled parsley.

Common name

Parsley

Latin name (genus)

Petroselinum crispum

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Apiaceae
Horticulture

Growing conditions

Parsley adapts to various types of soil, provided that it is rich in organic matter, cool, well drained and loosely packed.  For a good yield, add 4 to 5 kg/m2 of aged compost annually. This species prefers slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5 to 6.8). Space plants 30 cm apart and leave 60 cm between rows.

Parsley tolerates partly shady sites, but thrives in full sun. It is a cool-temperature plant and optimal growing temperatures are 16 to 20oC. It tolerates cold, even a light autumn frost. It must not be allowed to dry out thoroughly during dry spells.

Propagation

It is best to buy or grow new plants every year, because parsley fades quickly after it flowers. It is propagated exclusively from seed.

Seed: Germination is fairly slow. To speed up the process, soak the seeds in room-temperature water overnight before sowing them. Sow indoors six weeks before the last frost. Seeds germinate in 12 to 21 days at 20-25oC and remain viable for 3 years.

Use

Culinary uses: Fresh parsley is added to salads. It is the basic ingredient in the Middle Eastern salad called tabbouleh, and goes well with soups, eggs, poultry, meat and most vegetables. Parsley is a key ingredient in two herb blends: bouquet garni (parsley, bay leaf and thyme) and persillade (parsley and finely chopped shallots).

Harvesting: Given good growing conditions, 3 or 4 leaves may be harvested every week. It is best to remove the older leaves on the outside of the plant, because they will become leathery if left too long.  

All the leaves can also be harvested at once, and then dried. In that case, cut the plant back to 5 cm from the ground. New, ready to harvest leaves will appear within 4 to 6 weeks. A final harvest can also be made before the plant flowers in the spring of the second year. In that case, the root requires winter protection (mulch), because the species is not always hardy at our latitudes.

Storage: Parsley loses colour and flavour when dried. It is best fresh or frozen.

  • Fresh: Parsley keeps well in a plastic bag stored in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.
  • Frozen: Spread large leaf pieces on a cookie sheet, freeze and then transfer them to a freezer container.
  • Dried: Spread the leaf pieces out to dry in a warm, dark, well-ventilated location. Once dry, store the leaves in an opaque, airtight container, without crushing them.

See also

Pests and diseases

Swalllowtail butterfly caterpillars (Papilio spp.)

Carrot fly

Root rot and damping off (Rhizoctonia sp., Pythium sp.)

Leaf spot (Alternaria sp., Septoria petroselini)

Physiological disorders

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