Saturday Spotlight on Sunday – “Italian Plain Leaf” Parsley

ParsleyI love parsley.  It is probably my favourite herb and something I’m always happy to have a nibble of.  Whenever I find it sitting on a plate pretending to be a garnish I always eat it – you just can’t let good parsley go to waste.  I do sometimes wonder whether garnishes are recycled in restaurants, whether the waiting staff take the parsley off returned plates, carefully wash it (or not) and put it on the next customers.  Perhaps this never happens but I still find the whole eating the garnish thing slightly subversive.

“Italian Plain Leaf” is a flat leaf parsley variety and I have to admit it is the only flat leaf variety I’ve ever grown.  Whether there are better flat leaf varieties I couldn’t say but I can tell you that I’m pretty happy with this one.


I sow my parsley seed (usually seed I have saved) in late winter.  This is because, in my micro-climate, I find that sowing it too early means it often bolts in Spring.  Sowing seed later than winter means I have too big a gap between last years crop going to seed and the new year’s crop isn’t big enough early enough to harvest from over summer.  (I find any gap at all difficult to cope with I love it so much…)  As a result late winter seems to be the perfect time to sow seed.

I also have quite a bit of self seeded parsley in the garden but as they aren’t always in the right places I try and ensure I sow seed every year.  I sow seed into seed trays and then pot up when the seedlings have at least two true leaves.  When I pot up I tend to try and put about three seedlings bunched together in each pot.  This is because parsley can be a little slow to get going and it gives me bigger ‘plants’ to harvest from earlier in the season.  You can sow plant and sow parsley any time of the year in Melbourne though so if you haven’t already planted some out there is still time to get a decent crop before it bolts in Spring.  Or perhaps there is a variety that doesn’t bolt?


I don’t prepare the soil in any particular way for parsley, I grow it in both well fertilised beds and less prepared soil and find it generally does OK regardless.  I also find that it grows well in both sun and fairly shady sites.  I have some plants in positions where they only get a few hours of afternoon sun everyday and they seem happy enough.

You can grow it pots or in the ground but I tend to favour the ground as it can get quite big, especially if you are aiming for tabouleh level quantities.  If you do grow it in a pot then I would recommend a pretty big one, or perhaps choose a curly leaved variety as they tend to be smaller.

Occasionally I am asked what the other differences between the flat leaf and curly parsley varieties are.  To me the main differences are texture and flavour.  Flat leaf has a stronger flavour and the texture is better for dishes with a lot of parsley in them – tabouleh for instance.  Curly parsley tends to be hardier (but you would have to live in a climate cooler than Melbourne for that hardiness to be needed) and looks prettier both as a plant and a garnish.  I generally find flat leaf parsley to be more useful from a culinary perspective, my favourite uses for parsley being tabouleh, in puttanesca sauce, in salsa verde, in pesto, as a soup, in stocks, to finish stews and casseroles, in fact in pretty much any Meditteranean style dish.

Chickpea, Chorizo & Tomato Stew

Do you grow flat leaf parsley?  What do you grow and what do you use it in?

(Apologies for the delay in this weeks post.  I went to footy yesterday and was too exhausted/excited (wrangling a 3 year old who wants to go home at quarter time can be quite tiring…) to finish this one.  A big YAY for the Mighty Dons!)

Saturday Spotlight is a series of posts highlighting particular varieties of edible plants.  If you have a favourite, or even a less than successful variety of a plant and would like to include it in the series then please leave a comment with a link below.    I have created a page (above, just below the header) with an Index of all the Spotlights to date.   I will add links to any new posts below and in next weeks post as well as ensuring they appear in the Index. 

New Spotlights last week were:

Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecked Squash – Our Happy Acres

and from this week:

Red Kuri or Potimaron Squash – My Little Garden Project

Melons – Bek’s Backyard

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31 Responses to Saturday Spotlight on Sunday – “Italian Plain Leaf” Parsley

  1. Alyse Mae says:

    I am a fan of the Italian flat leaf parsley. I grow a variety called ‘commune 2’ its a lighter green and very aromatic. I try to use it when ever I can, it always add colour and flavour. I can’t stand the curly stuff, i find it really tough compared to the tender leaves of flat parsley.

  2. Mark Willis says:

    I’m a fan of Parsley in all its forms too. There is a place for both curly and flat-leaf types. The only time I ever had Parsley in “industrial” quantities was when I grew a flat-leaf variety which I think was called “Italian Giant”. It was certainly big! Most of the time I find it difficult to produce enough Parsley for our needs. We use it quicker than it grows! This year I am sowing lots of it in the hope that I will be able to have as much as we need.
    Like you, I usually eat a garnish if one is added to my meal in a restaurant, though having read what you say maybe I won’t from now on…

  3. Nina says:

    I have a lot of the Italian flat-leaf growing – but not as much as last year which necessitated me making the parsley soup!

    I’ve had a few different sorts of parsley growing from time to time – flat, curly triple curl – and I agree with Alyse Mae, curly is tough unless you pick it very young. Age doesn’t seem to matter as much with Italian.

    And what a coincidence! I’ve just made the chick pea and choritzo stew. I was wanting something that was hearty and tasty and I saved the recipe last year so thought I’d give it a go. I also needed something for Tuesday night that I could just heat up for dinner as I won’t have time to cook from scratch.

    The dish is yummy!!

    • Liz says:

      Glad you liked it – it is something of a dependable standby in this house – there’s something everyone likes in it, although Mr 3 doesn’t eat much more than bits of the chorizo.

  4. We’ve grown both flat and curly but have tended to grow curly more. We grow it on the plots but also have some in large pots in the garden for picking fresh at home.

  5. Andrea says:

    I enjoy both types but at present have only the curly variety growing in the garden.
    I ended up buying a punnet of seedlings a couple of weeks ago and have been watering them every couple of days, they grow well for us over winter and are one herb that doesn’t mind the frost. Yesterday I picked sprigs to go into lentil and veggie soup and tonight some went into Cornish pasties…….

    • Liz says:

      Today I ate some in a cucumber, pomegranate and pine nut salad. Yesterday it was pasta puttanesca. I wonder how many days in a row I could use it for.

  6. Daphne says:

    I used to grow flat leaved parsley at my last house. It self seeded every year. The leaves would die back in the winter, but it would pop up again in spring. I tried a curly type at this house, but it can’t seem to grow here. I think there are too many carrot flies. So I’m trying a flat leafed again,   Gigante d’Italia. I’ll see how it does.

  7. Hurrah for parsley! We grow the flat-leaved kind, and never seem to have enough since it doesn’t seem to want to reseed itself in our climate…

  8. Dave says:

    I grow the Giant Italian as well as a curly leaf kind. And I love parsley in so many things. I made some parsley pesto a while back, and I’m making it again this week. The overwintered plants are getting ready to flower, so I wanted to do something with the leaves while I can. The only pest I have is the swallowtail butterflies, who sometimes lay their eggs on it. But they seem to prefer the fennel or carrots mostly.

    • Liz says:

      I think will have to seek out some new ways of using parsley gluts as I have a heap of plants in at the moment. Necessary while they are young, but when they get close to flowering I will be inundated.

  9. Balvinder says:

    I am not very much a fan of parsley but love it in Mediterranean and italian dishes. Mine started growing well with other herbs in container.

  10. Sarah says:

    Flat leaf parsley is my favourite for the kitchen, but in a Yorkshire climate the curled leaf variety is more reliable to get through the winter. I’d never thought that the parsley garnish might be recycled – now you’ve put me off eating it, who knows how many plates it could have been on before…

  11. J is a little scared of parsley since a 2 week long hospital visit but I’m determined to grow some and slowly introduce it back into his diet.

  12. Bek says:

    Nice. I love parsley too, and mine also bolts in spring. Though this year I didn’t bother to pull it out and they look like they’ve re-sprouted. There are also some seedlings that have come up from the seed I also didn’t bother to collect. Either way I’m not complaining.

  13. Italian Parsley is my favourite weed. It self seeds itself merrily around the garden so I usually leave it be unless it is really in the way. I put parsley in pretty much everything so I miss it when it goes to seed.

  14. we have parsley self seeding everywhere at our house, we never seem to be without it, its even poking between the bricks in our paths. Tonight it was in a tomato basil salsa with chives and dandelion leaves. You feel like its doing you good when you eat it.

  15. Alex says:

    I’m trying to grow some parsley at the moment. A friend from work gave me some flat leaf and curly leaf seeds to try and I planted them around 4 weeks ago. I haven’t seen any signs of life yet but I’ve heard that it can take up to 8 weeks for parsley seeds to germinate.
    Has anyone here had much experience growing directly from seed (rather than an established plant self seeding) that they could share? I’d be grateful to hear about your experiences and to know if I really should keep hoping that my seeds will have something to show me in a few more weeks.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Alex,

      They can definitely be slow. I grow from seed all the time – I sow in punnets which then go inside a cold frame. I then pot up the seedlings when they have about 4 true leaves. In Winter, which is when I sow mine, they usually take around a month to 6 weeks to germinate from memory, although it does vary a bit depending on the age of the seed etc. The 8 weeks thing doesn’t sound too far out though. I would persist with them for the time being. One thing you could do is do a germination test on a few seed by putting some seed between damp kitchen paper and then into a plastic bag which you leave in a relatively warm place. If you check it weekly you should eventually see signs of germination if the seed is viable.


      • Alex says:

        Thanks for the reassurance Liz. I will pursevere with my parsley and hopefully I’ll have a successful crop to report soon.


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