Harvesting Your Parsley Herbs
Parsley herbs are not just a garnish or means of flavoring your food. High in vitamins C and A, parsley is good for you. It is also known to help control high blood pressure. Since it also has a pleasant, nutty flavor and help clean your breath after eating certain foods, such as garlic, it is a popular herb for growing at home and harvesting fresh.
When to Harvest
Parsley takes 2 to 3 months from planting the seeds to harvest time. Once the growth is full and about 1 foot tall you can begin harvesting. You should be able to continue harvesting through the fall. If in a container indoors, you may be able to continue to harvest your parsley all winter long.
Leaves or Stems?
Parsley stems are as edible and nutritious as the leaves. As new growth starts from the ground up rather than new growth coming from old stems, it is best to take the whole stem off near the ground. Feel free to use everything in your cooking.
How to Harvest
Gather a section of stems into a clump in your hand. Snip the stems off just above the ground with a pair of scissors.
Harvest from the outside of the clump. New growth occurs at the center of the clump, pushing old growth outward. By removing the older growth you make room for the new growth to grow larger. Take no more than 1/3 of the plant at any given time. Don't take more than you need if you want your plant to keep producing for the rest of the season.
Water After Harvesting
Parsley should take well to being harvested. It is a good idea to provide a bit of extra water after harvesting to promote new growth. However, do not water so heavily that the ground becomes soggy. Parsley likes to stay moist, but will rot if water logged.
Cleaning Your Harvest
Rinse the leaves and stems with clean water. If you intend to use them immediately, then feel free to chop them wet. If you intend to place them in the refrigerator for a time, pat them dry with paper towels.
Storing Your Harvest
There are several ways to store parsley for later use.
- Dry – Drying is the traditional means of storage, but the parsley tends to lose some of its flavor. Air dry the leaves on the stems at room temperature. Hanging in clumps with the leaves down seems to concentrate the flavor into the leaves. Alternately, dry them on a tray, spread out to get good air circulation around all the leaves. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an air tight container.
- Frozen – Freezing is becoming more popular as a means of storage. The leaves are chopped and placed in clumps in something like an ice cube tray. A little extra water is added and the cubes are frozen. The cubes retain the flavor of the leaves almost as well as fresh leaves, and can be simply dropped into hot food during cooking.