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How to Harvest Parsley (without damaging the plant)

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Parsley is a favorite fresh herb of many herb gardeners. It’s also an easy herb to grow in your garden. Harvesting parsley, however, should be done in a particular way to keep the plant healthy. This article has all the details on how to harvest parsley without damaging the plant, and to encourage growth.

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A bunch of freshly harvested flat leaf parsley on a white cloth.

Harvesting parsley

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a wonderful fresh herb that can be used in pasta dishes, egg dishes, as a garnish for soups, and greens for salads. It adds a bright, fresh flavor and a pop of color to any dish.

Growing parsley is easy, and it is an essential herb for any kitchen herb garden. However, harvesting parsley requires a little care to avoid damaging the plant, and encourage healthy growth.

There are two commonly grown varieties, curly leaf parsley and flat leaf parsley (also known as Italian parsley), and the approach to harvesting either of these is the same.

To harvest parsley and ensure that the plant remains healthy, do not remove more than ½ the plant. Harvest the parsley leaves from the outside first, cutting leaves from the base of the stem. Give the plant time to recover and grow back after removing the leaves. 

A bunch of cut parsley on a wooden board

When to harvest parsley leaves

Parsley plants can be harvested around 16 weeks after sowing seeds, though you can start to pick leaves as soon as the parsley seedlings start to get bushy. 

The best time of day to harvest parsley is in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the day has started to heat up. 

Which stems of parsley to harvest? 

If the stems (or sprigs) have three or more bundles of leaves, they can be harvested. Avoid harvesting those with only one or two leaf bundles. 

How to harvest parsley so it keeps growing

To harvest parsley to keep the plant healthy, cut sprigs of parsley from the outer portion of the plant, and cut the parsley stalks from the base of the stem near the soil.

Photo with text overlay showing where to cut parsley plant without damaging it.
Where to cut parsley plant to promote growth.

New parsley grows from the center of the plant and moves outwards, so by harvesting from the outside and removing the entire stalk you are removing the oldest growth and making room for the newer growth. 

Cutting parsley in this way helps to stimulate new growth, and can reinvigorate a leggy parsley plant.  

To harvest parsley without damaging the plant, use a sharp pair of clean kitchen shears or scissors to make a clean cut. This will ensure that the cut is clean and help to prevent damage or disease. 

After harvesting, keep the soil moist while the plant recovers.

How to store fresh cut parsley

To keep harvested parsley fresh, store in between moist paper towels in the refrigerator, or stand stems in a glass of fresh water. It will keep for a few weeks.

For more on storing parsley, see: How to store fresh parsley.

If you want to store it for a longer time then try freezing the parsley. You can chop it and freeze it in olive oil in an ice-cube tray, then pop out as needed.

It is also a very easy herb to dry, and dried parsley keeps it flavor well. For more details, check out my article on drying parsley: How to Dry Parsley

How to Harvest Parsley

A bunch of freshly harvested flat leaf parsley on a white cloth.

A step-by-step guide to harvesting parsley.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost free

Materials

  • A parsley plant (flat leaf or curly parsley)

Tools

  • Sharp scissors or secateurs

Instructions

  1. Inspect your parsley plant to find a stem with more than three leaf bundles.
  2. Cut the stem approximately 1 inch above the soil using sharp scissors or secateurs to make a good clean cut.
  3. If you are harvesting the parsley for leaves to use, continue until you have sufficient parsley, or until you have cut back up to half of the plant.
  4. If you are harvesting parsley to improve the condition of your plant, continue to prune until you have cut all the long leggy stems from the outer edge of the plant, up to half of the plant can be removed.
  5. Place the parsley plant in a sunny location and keep watered to ensure it will regrow.

Notes

  1. Store harvested parsley in the fridge between damp paper towels, or stand the stems in a glass of water.

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