Whether for medicinal purposes or food garnishing, you can’t deny that the parsley plant is an extremely useful herb.
However, they’re only beneficial if you know when to harvest them.
When to harvest parsley? The leaf stems are what you need to look out for when determining whether or not your parsley is ready to be harvested. Once they grow three segments, you can cut the outer parts and leave the inner portions to continue growing.
How Do You Know When Your Parsley Is Ready to Harvest?
Once your parsley starts sprouting from the soil, you need to start monitoring its stems.
Eventually, these stems will grow multiple clusters of leaves.
If one stem grows three or more leaf clusters or segments, that’s a clear indication that your parsley is ready to harvest.
On the other hand, be sure to steer away from stems with two or fewer segments.
These segments are still too young and may discourage the plant from growing if you cut them.
Because it takes around 70 to 90 days before it becomes fully mature, start monitoring parsley about two months after initially planting it.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Parsley?
The fate of your parsley if you don’t harvest it depends on where you keep the plant.
If it’s indoors, it will continue to grow and provide you with ample harvest whenever you need it.
Indoor parsley needs plenty of sunlight, so make sure it’s in a sunny area in your home.
Suffice it to say that this plant does not tolerate extremely cold temperatures.
You can keep growing your parsley throughout the winter if you have a warm spot for them inside your home.
However, if you can’t provide this, make sure that you harvest towards the end of autumn.
Otherwise, the freezing temperature will cause your plant to wither.
When that happens, you have little to no chance of growing it back after the winter season.
How To Harvest Parsley
The next thing you need to learn is how to harvest fresh parsley.
Bear in mind that improper harvesting may lead to poor yield. And in worse cases, the plant can die.
To avoid that from happening, here are the steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Identifying
The first part of harvesting parsley is identification.
You need to know which ones are mature enough and which are still too young.
You may refer to the quick guide earlier to correctly identify mature parsley.
Step 2: Cutting
Once you know which ones are ready to harvest, you need to learn how to cut them.
Make sure that you cut or pick the plant’s stem right at the base, which is the part where the segment meets the main stem.
If the segment isn’t connected to the stem, you need to cut it at the soil level.
Doing so will keep the plant healthy and encourage continuous stem and leaf growth.
If you only pick the leaves, the plant will not be as eager to grow as if you harvest from the base.
Step 3: Recovery
You want to make sure that your parsley plants have more than enough time to heal after the initial harvest.
Otherwise, harvesting day after day may cause the plant to die.
Fortunately, the recovery period is only around seven days.
After a week, check on your parsley again and determine whether it’s ready to harvest.
Then, follow the proper cutting technique once you see new segments growing out of the plant.
Step 4: Storing
You may not be able to use all your harvested parsley in one go, especially if you bulk harvest before winter.
For this reason, you also need to learn how to store them. Generally, you have two methods for storing parsley:
While the parsley is still fresh, grab a small container and fill half of it with water.
Then, place the leaf stalks in it so that half of the stem is submerged in water.
Finally, put the container inside your refrigerator.
If you don’t want to keep it in the fridge, there’s another method you can try.
After harvesting the parsley, hang it upside down to let it air dry.
Once dry, separate the leaves from the stems and discard the latter.
Lastly, crumble the leaves and place them in an airtight container.
Different Methods of Drying Parsley
If you decide to store your parsley in an airtight container, you need to learn how to dry the leaves.
Some use a dehydrator for this process. However, not all of us have this equipment.
Here are other methods you can try for drying your parsley.
The easiest and most obvious way of parsley drying is by hanging it.
Ensure that there are still several inches of stem left on each segment for this drying method.
To do this, start by grouping all your harvest and tying the stems together with yarn or thread.
Tie the other end of the thread to the ceiling so that the leaves hang upside down.
You want to make sure that there is adequate ventilation in the room and little sunlight.
Let it air-dry for about a week.
You can also try covering the leaves with a paper bag to prevent them from falling to the ground during the process.
If you don’t drive your car rather often, you can use its windshield to dry your parsley.
To do this, grab a window screen and place it on top of your car’s windshield.
Lay the parsley individually on the window screen to make sure each one receives proper ventilation.
The average heat of the environment will dry the parsley.
On the other hand, you can also use a cookie sheet if you don’t have a window screen.
Just make sure that you place a baking rack for ventilation before laying down the parsley.
We don’t recommend drying your parsley in the oven, but you’re free to do so or at least try it.
The first step is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you’ve prepared your parsley, adjust the temperature to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and place the parsley for 20 minutes.
One major disadvantage of using this method is the possibility of burning the harvest.
Furthermore, the heat may also cause the essential oils to evaporate.
Should You Wash Parsley After Harvesting?
As with any other plant, parsley is prone to various harmful outdoor elements.
Ergo, make sure that you wash your parsley after harvesting.
Doing so will wash away dirt that may have stuck to the leaves of the plant.
Additionally, you will also want to look for bugs, critters, or other insects and remove them thoroughly.
If you don’t, you may end up ingesting these contaminants or mixing them with your medicinal herb.
Can You Eat Parsley Immediately After Harvesting?
You can eat parsley raw, but not right after harvesting it.
Doing this poses many threats not with the nature of the plant but with the risks of ingesting contaminants.
Parsley is often used as a garnish for different dishes. In some cases, it’s even a vital ingredient in recipes.
As such, we can safely say that you’ll have no problem eating it raw. Then again, some people prefer dried parsley.
Ingesting parsley immediately after harvest may not be a good idea because there might be bugs or insects hiding beneath the leaves.
Even if there are no evident threats of insects, it’s best to wash it first.
This is especially true for people who use pesticides when tending to their gardens.
The harmful chemicals in these products may still be fresh in the leaves.
As you may already know, these chemicals aren’t particularly good for the body and may cause serious complications.
Are There Side Effects to Eating or Using Parsley?
Small amounts of parsley, like those found in food garnish, are safe to consume.
There won’t be any negative side effects, provided, of course, that the parsley is cleaned before consumption.
Ingesting parsley for medicinal purposes is also generally safe for most adults.
However, there are specific instances where people experience allergic reactions to the herb.
Too much consumption of parsley is strongly discouraged, too.
The plant’s composition can lead to kidney or liver complications, and, in some cases, consuming large amounts can cause anemia.
There aren’t enough studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of parsley leaf or root in topical application for medicinal purposes.
However, the seed oil is found to be unsafe.
While it may help wounds, the oil causes the skin to be extra sensitive to sunlight.
Prolonged exposure eventually leads to rashes or skin irritation.
Parsley is one of the easiest plants you can grow at home because they only require an ample amount of direct sunlight and plenty of water.
The efficiency of the parsley plant lies not in how you take care of them but in how and when you harvest them.
Knowing which ones are ready, cutting them properly, and storing them for future use will guarantee that you maximize this herb’s potential.
Keep these things in mind when harvesting your parsley.