This easy guide on how to harvest parsley will cover all aspects from how much to take from each plant during every harvest up until the plant goes dormant late in the season. Learn exactly how to harvest parsley without killing the plant.
If you’re a gardener, homesteader, herbalist or just someone who loves fresh herbs in their cooking, keeping a few pots of parsley in your garden will provide an abundance of flavor and nutrition through the growing season. With careful tending and attention to detail, you can ensure that an entire crop’s worth of tasty parsley leaves will be at your fingertips whenever you need them. Grab some garden snips and let’s get started!
Related: Parsley Companion Planting Guide
A Few Notes About Parsley
Parsley is a unique and flavorful herb that has been used for centuries to add brightness to meals. Officially known as Petroselinum crispum, parsley is native to the Mediterranean and grows best in full sun or partial shade with moist soil. It’s hardy in USDA Zones 4-9, so you may have luck growing it in your garden! Parsley comes in two main varieties: crispum and neapolitanum. Crispum (curly leaf parsely) is the more common variety, featuring curly leaves that are easy to work with. Varieties of crispum parsley include Darki, Gigante d’Italia, and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Italian Parsley). Neapolitanum is a flat-leaf variety that is more flavorful and easier to process. Varieties of neapolitanum parsley include Green River, Moss Curled, and Triple Curled.
Best Time to Harvest Parsley
The best time of day to harvest many fruits, vegetables, and herbs is in the morning after the morning dew dries up and before the hot sun has set in. This helps to ensure that your parsley plant has less stress and that the fresh cuts on the stock have time to dry before evening (lessening chance of disease). According to NC State Extension, parsley leaves have the most powerful flavor just before flowers open up due to the higher levels of essential oils present within the leaves.
How To Know When Parsley Is Ready To Be Picked
Knowing when to harvest parsley is important to ensure that it is at its peak flavor and quality. Here are some tips on how to know when parsley is ready to be harvested:
- Look at the size of the leaves: When the parsley leaves have grown to around 2-3 inches in length, they are ready to be harvested. This is usually around 70-90 days after planting.
- Check the color of the leaves: The leaves should be a vibrant green color when ready to be harvested. If the leaves are starting to turn yellow or brown, it may be a sign that the parsley is past its prime.
- Check the stalks: Parsley is typically harvested by cutting the stalks from the plant. The stalks should be firm and sturdy, with no signs of wilting or bending. If the parsley stalks are weak or floppy, it may be a sign that the parsley is not yet ready to be harvested.
- Smell the leaves: Parsley has a fresh and aromatic scent when it is ready to be harvested. If the leaves have a strong odor, it may be a sign that the parsley is overripe or starting to go bad.
How Much Parsley To Harvest At A Time
How To Harvest Parsley Without Killing The Plant
Begin harvesting parsley when the plant has three or more clusters of leaves. Up to 3/4 of the plants foliage can be harvested at one time but I generally recommend harvesting no more than 50% of the parsley greens at one time. This will help to encourage the plant’s regeneration… keeping enough foliage to maintain growth.
Review: In order to harvest parsley without killing it, follow these three basic principles
- Harvest parsley in the morning, after the morning dew has dried.
- Cut parsley at the base of the plant to encourage new growth.
- Cut around 50% of the parsley leaves at a time, leaving enough greens intact to encourage the plant’s continued growth.
How To Store Parsley
Preserve your parsley harvest when it is most plentiful to enjoy it all year long!
Fresh parsley can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel in a zip top bag for up to 2 weeks. Alternately, you can treat parsley like a bouquet of flowers, upright in a jar with water at the bottom of the stems, loosely covered in a plastic bag or plastic wrap.
Fresh parsley can be frozen quite easily! Simply wash the leaves like you normally would and dry them in a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towel. Cut to desired size. Place them in a zip top bag with the air squeezed out (cigar style) and freeze for up to 6 months. You can also freeze them in a neutral oil like avocado oil and place them in ice cube trays… similar to freezing mint.
The Purposeful Pantry has a great guide to dehydrating parsley. Similar to freezing, parsley needs to be washed, dried, and cut to desired size before being placed on a dehydrator tray to dry. You can also air dry parsley bunches by bundling and hanging them- similar to how I dried peppers in this guide.
Tips + Tricks For a Great Parsley Harvest
- Cut parsley stalks close to the base to encourage new growth.
- Grow 3-4 parsley plants so that you can have a significant harvest without stunting the plant growth.
- Plant your parsley in a favorable spot, taking Parsley Companion Plants into consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Parsley
Absolutely! Parsley is still edible after it has bolted and started to form flowers. At this point the plant puts most of its energy into flowering and creating parsley seeds; so the leaves won’t be as plentiful but they remain edible.
Consider planting your parsley in an area where it won’t be plagued with extreme heat. Cut the flower bud off at the base of the plant and pinch back some of the foliage to encourage leaf growth and discourage bolting.
Parsley is considered a biennial but it is usually treated as an annual. First year parsley plants are harvested for their leaves while second year parsley is usually when you would harvest parsley seeds.
Harvest Ready Parsley Recipes
Check out this quiche with fresh herbs from Taste of Home.
Use Parsley as a Garnish for your Favourite Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe