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How to Harvest Parsley

Parsley is fairly easy to grow and even easier to harvest, but in order to get the best yield and flavor, there are a few protocols you should observe. First year parsley plants should be harvested for their leaves, while second year plants are generally harvested for their seeds.

Part One of Two:
Harvest Parsley Leaves
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  1. 1
    Choose younger plants. Younger parsley plants have the strongest flavor. The leaves can be harvested even after the first year, but if you have the option of harvesting leaves from a plant in its first year of growth, doing so will give you the best yield and product.
  2. 2
    Wait until the leaf stems have three segments. Check the stems. If the stems have three or more clusters of leaves, they are mature enough to harvest from. Stems with one or two segments should be left alone.
    • Most parsley plants will be ready to harvest from within 70 to 90 days after you initially plant them.[1]
  3. 3
    Cut at the base of the plant. When harvesting entire stems or bunches of parsley, snip the herb off at the base of the plant instead of cutting from the top.
    • Cutting the parsley near the base of the plant will encourage the plant to produce even more stems, resulting in an overall bushier parsley plant with an improved yield.
  4. 4
    Cut leaves from the outer portions. If you only plan on harvesting a few small sprigs of parsley for immediate use, you should snip them off from the outer portion of the plant and not from the inside.
    • Even if you plan on cutting a few full sprigs at the base of the plant, you should cut from the outside instead of the inside. The inner part of the plant will benefit from being able to mature longer.
    • Removing leaves from the outside will ensure that the oldest growth is being harvested, thereby preventing it from browning or otherwise remaining on the plant too long.
    • Harvesting old growth also allows the plant to focus its energy on producing and maturing the newer growth. This effort will produce an overall healthier parsley plant.
  5. 5
    Harvest continually. Parsley will continue to grow throughout the entire season, even after you harvest the leaves. As such, you can have a steady supply of the herb and do not need to harvest it all at once.
    • Parsley grown outdoors will usually remain a vibrant green until late fall to early winter. Once the color starts to fade, its flavor will decline dramatically. Until that happens, though, you can keep harvesting the plant on an ongoing basis without a loss to the herb's flavor or health.
  6. 6
    Harvest in bulk at the end of the season. If your parsley is kept outdoors and unprotected, it will die off during the winter. Before that happens, harvest the rest of it so that the plant has a chance to grow back the following year.
    • Parsley will continue to grow throughout the winter if you keep it protected in a warm place indoors. Make sure that the indoor plant receives plenty of sunlight on a daily basis by placing it near a sunny window.[2]
    • If you have an indoor parsley plant, you do not need to make a final harvest before winter. Instead, continue harvesting the parsley on an "as needed" basis.
  7. 7
    Store and use as desired. Parsley is best used fresh. It can, however, be stored for several months if necessary, but the flavor will not be as strong once you dry out the herb.
    • If you cut off the leaves a little at a time, it is recommended that you use the parsley immediately. If you cut more than you can use for a single meal, wrap the rest in a damp paper towel and store them in the refrigerator for up to two days.[3]
    • Similarly, you can place entire sprigs of parsley in water and store them in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
    • If you plan on storing the parsley for long-term use, your best bet is to freeze it.[4] This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but one of the easiest is to cut up the leaves into small portions and place them into ice cube trays. Fill the trays will a little water and freeze as normal. When ready to use, melt an individual cube of parsley, drain the water, and add to your dish. Note that frozen parsley will retain its flavor but lose its crispness.
    • You can dry parsley by hanging full sprigs upside-down in a well-ventilated, dark, and warm area indoors. It should dry in a week or two, at which point, you should crumble the leaves and store it in an airtight bag or container.
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Part Two of Two:
Harvest Parsley Seeds
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  1. 1
    Wait until the second year. Parsley plants do not go to seed during their first year. If you plan on harvesting the seeds, you will need to monitor a plant already in its second year.[5]
    • Parsley plants are biennial. Typically, the plants will only live for two years, and at the end of their lives, they will flower and seed.
    • To maximize your seed harvest, it is recommended that you remove imperfect or weak two-year-old plants at the end of the first season. In doing so, you ensure that the healthiest plants can fertilize each other and produce good seed.
    • When harvesting and storing seeds, try to separate those that were ready for harvest early from those that were ready later in the season. The seeds from early seed producers should be given priority over those that came from plants that produced seed late.
  2. 2
    Harvest the seeds when they become dark. To harvest entire seed heads, wait until the majority of the seeds have turned dark brown. If you harvest the seeds any earlier, they may not germinate well later on.
    • Parsley seed goes through three basic stages. Immediately after it finishes flowering, the seed will emerge as a light or bright green color. It will eventually take on a tan tint during the second stage, and during the final stage, it will be brown or otherwise dark in color.
  3. 3
    Cut off the seed heads. Snip off the seeds by cutting directly below the seed head. Pinch the stem just below the seed head with your thumb and index finger. Cut the stem just below your fingers.
    • Remove the seed heads carefully, shaking them as little as possible as you work. If you shake the seeds while clipping them off, you could end up scattering the seeds. Since the seeds are fairly small, seeds that are scattered will likely end up lost.
  4. 4
    Shake lightly. Gently shake the seed heads into a paper bag to quickly and easily remove the majority of the mature seeds.
    • You could also lightly shake or tug on the seeds over a tightly woven patch of fabric or plastic sheeting.
    • Shake or remove the seeds using a gentle motion. If you apply too much force, the seeds can fly off and scatter in all directions.
  5. 5
    Ripen additional seeds. If a few young seeds still remain stuck to the seed heads, you can let them ripen by setting the cut seed head out in the sun for a few days.
    • To ripen more of the seeds, spread out the cut stalks on plastic or tightly-woven fabric sheets and place them in direct sunlight indoors. Keep the parsley stalks in a single, thin layer as they dry.
    • The remaining seeds should be ripe within two days.
    • Keep the seeds indoors as they dry. If you dry the seeds outdoors, birds or other small animals may end up getting to them before you do.
  6. 6
    Consider plucking seeds individually.[6] If a few seeds from a cluster ripen much faster than the others, you can harvest them on their own by simply pinching them off with your index finger and thumb.
    • Parsley plants have a tendency to ripen at an irregular pace. Some seeds might be ready to harvest an entire three weeks earlier than others, even if the seeds are on the same head.
    • Be careful as you pluck off seeds. The force you use to pluck off individual seeds can cause the stem to recoil, and if there are too many mature seeds on the plant, they may break off with the force of that recoil and fly off as a result. As a result, it is recommended that you pluck individual seeds only if the majority of the seeds are not yet ready for harvest.
  7. 7
    Dry the seeds. The seeds will need to dry out for about 10 to 14 days before you can store them and use them later on.
    • To dry the seeds, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet with shallow sides and place them in a warm, dry location.
    • Turn and mix the seeds each day to prevent them from drying unevenly.
    • The seeds must be thoroughly dry before you can store them.
    • Store the dried seeds in airtight plastic bags or containers. Keep them in a cool, dry, and dark location until ready to plant.
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Community Q&A

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  • How long can I store a parsley seed head?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If you place the seeds inside of a zip-loc bag inside of a sealed glass container in your fridge, they can easily last up to three years.
    Thanks! 6 1
  • Does parsley like moist or dry soil?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • My parsley always appears to do very well in moist soil, thriving during rainy times. It also appears to hang in there pretty well if left dry for a few days in the summer, but I avoid this situation whole-heartedly!
    Thanks! 2 1
  • My garden parsley is old. Can I still harvest it?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Parsley is biannual; the plant will die after it seeds. If the old plant is a second-year plant, you can harvest it, but the flavor is not as good as that of a first-year plant. If it is a first-year plant, harvest all you want until the season ends and the plant dies off for winter.
    Thanks! 2 2
  • Do I keep watering my parsley after it has gone to seed?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • There is really no need to do so. Once it goes to seed, the leaves lose their flavor and the plant will soon die off. I usually just get rid of the plant as soon as I get the seeds from it.
    Thanks! 1 1
  • HI. Do you use fresh or dried parsley?
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Things You'll NeedEdit

Harvest Parsley LeavesEdit

  • Kitchen shears
  • Paper towels (optional)
  • Dish of water (optional)
  • Ice cube trays (optional)
  • Twine (optional)
  • Airtight plastic bag or container (optional)

Harvest Parsley SeedsEdit

  • Kitchen shears
  • Paper bag, plastic sheet, or tightly-woven cloth
  • Baking sheet with shallow sides
  • Airtight plastic bag or container

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About This Article

225 votes - 95%
Co-authors: 3
Updated:
Views: 134,374

Reader Success Stories

  • PE

    Patricia Ellison

    Jul 13, 2017

    "I grow parsley for butterflies and need it to feed the caterpillars until they pupate. My plants are 2nd year and are going to seed, so I need to propagate my plants so that I will have enough for next summer."..." more
    Rated this article:
  • MJ

    Midnight Jones

    Aug 20, 2016

    "I've been picking my parsley all wrong! This article showed me the proper way to harvest parsley and - bonus - how to harvest the seeds so I will be able to seed and replant my parsley for years to come!"..." more
  • BB

    Bowen Bailie

    Mar 20, 2016

    "I’m a young boy who loves growing things on his windowsill. This helped me look after parsley and share it with my family. We all love it. Thanks for your help. :)"..." more
  • JB

    J. B.

    Jul 4, 2016

    "This is a wonderful guide, with detailed instructions and pictures! I have been doing it wrong, and now I understand why my plants have not continued to produce."..." more
  • CB

    Chantill Brown

    Jul 3, 2016

    "Great instructions on how to harvest my parsley. I always try to grow herbs and veggies, but have a hard time. This article helped out a lot. Thanks."..." more
  • J

    Joseph and Kathy

    Mar 23, 2017

    "It helped a lot!! Now I now how to grow and use the parsley we bought!! Thanks! Joseph"..." more
  • KS

    K. S.

    Apr 30, 2017

    "This is my first time growing parsley and this was very clear and thorough. It is exactly what I was looking for!"
  • RG

    Robert Gillespie

    Sep 2, 2017

    "This is our first year growing parsley, everything in your tutorial was extremely helpful. Thank you very much."
  • MC

    Margie Crutchfield

    Jul 1, 2016

    "Very informative. This is the first year for me to grow parsley. I liked the step-by-step information."
  • MM

    Marion McCann

    Apr 27, 2016

    "I learned to leave behind stalks with two stems and to cut what I need from the outer perimeter."
  • RB

    Rita B.

    Jun 4, 2017

    "This is the only step-by-step instruction about seed harvesting for parsley that I have found!"
    Rated this article:
  • Paul Thomas

    Sep 1, 2017

    "General background on how to manage parsley in my herb garden was helpful."
    Rated this article:
  • LT

    Lisa T.

    Feb 5, 2017

    "Provided all the information I was seeking. Thank you!"
  • CH

    Christy Hughes

    May 22, 2017

    "Explains clearly how to harvest and save parsley seed."
    Rated this article:
  • BW

    Bree W.

    Sep 15, 2016

    "This is exactly what I needed to know!"
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