I have often wondered if flat leaf parsley could thrive in my tropical herb garden here in Manila. Like cilantro, parsley grows best under a cooler climate, ideally below 30 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, the late September monsoon rains in the Philippines had brought down the temperature in the city to an average of 26 – 28 degrees celsius. So I decided to try my luck with a few parsley seeds which I sowed directly into a medium-sized container.
Parsley is a biennial plant. This means that it produces leaves on the first year, during which the flavor is concentrated on the leaves. In warm countries like the Philippines, their life cycle is shorter, less than a year. After a few months, they will start to bolt out, i.e. the flowers will start to appear and produce seeds. This is the start of the end of their life cycle, as the plant starts to wither and die. During the flowering stage, the concentration of flavor shifts to the tap roots, instead of the leaves. You can still harvest them by pulling them out of the soil and use the tap roots for culinary purposes.
There are two varieties of parsley that are most commonly used in the Philippines. One is the curly-leaf variety which can thrive only in colder places(so I’m counting it out of my herb garden). The other variety, the flat-leaf variety, can tolerate a little bit of warm weather, like what we have here in Manila. It’s best to locate them under partial shade with some exposure to the morning sun. Water them as frequently as needed, especially when the temperature gets above 30 degrees celsius, as they have a tendency to bolt out prematurely, especially in our hot weather conditions. They can be grown indoors, by placing the pot near the window sill where they can get partial sunlight.
Thus, the best time to start planting parsley under this tropical weather in Metro Manila is around the end of August, when the temperature drops to more comfortable levels, below 30 degrees. Parsley can only be planted from seeds, and they require moist but well draining soil in order to thrive. Occasional side dressing of organic fertilizer may help replenish the lost nutrients in the soil, especially for potted plants.
So far, my parsley experiment seems to be doing quite well. The new growths took a bit longer to mature, probably because the temperature increased a bit in the past couple of weeks. Since I am using only organic fertilizer, the leaves were a little sparse, compared to those commercially grown by farmers.