How Do I Harvest Parsley?

Marlene de Wilde

The most popular way to harvest parsley is to bunch the stalks together and cut them off about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the ground, but it is also possible to cut off a few top leaves if that is all that is needed. Another way to harvest parsley is to remove the stalks completely but never more than one third of the plant. By picking off the outside leaves, new leaves will grow from the middle of the plant.

A steak with parsley.
A steak with parsley.

It is important not to harvest parsley until the roots have developed as this is when the plant is strong enough to support regrowth. Cutting off any stalks that are flowering will help to encourage new foliage. As the stalks of the herb are tender, it is possible to harvest parsley by twisting off the tops using the hands but there will be less trauma to the plant if a sharp knife or scissors are used.

Fresh parsley is commonly used to garnish food.
Fresh parsley is commonly used to garnish food.

Parsley seeds are best planted indoors in early Spring if outside temperatures are still cool. When they have sprouted and become seedlings, they can be planted outside when the temperatures are a bit warmer. The seedlings should be planted about 18 inches (45 cm) apart once they start to mature. Growing parsley is fairly easy as long as the soil is well-drained and kept moist. Soil does not need to be fertilized as a rule.

Parsley likes hot temperatures but it can also survive the cold as long as temperatures are not too extreme. Extreme temperatures can affect parsley as in going to seed when it is too hot and suffering from the frost when it is too cold. If the parsley is in a pot, bringing it indoors through the winter will ensure the plant survives.

The first harvest of parsley can be taken about 70 to 90 days after planting. It can be harvested any time all year round but it does tend to lose some color during the winter months. For this reason, some gardeners prefer to harvest all of their crop at the beginning of winter and start a new crop in spring or early summer. After harvest, parsley can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen. It can also be dried and stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Some of the taste is lost after the herb is dried but it is the best way to keep parsley for a longer time.

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