How to Harvest Italian Parsley & Its Seeds
When you are ready to harvest, just grab a few stalks at a time and cut about ½ an inch from the ground. Don’t worry; they will grow right back within a few weeks and probably more vigorously than before. Don’t wait too long to start harvesting. The more you pick, the more determined it gets to stay ahead of you. Remember that the younger, more tender leaves are the ones with the most flavor.
To harvest the seeds in the second year, cut off the flower heads when you see the tiny seeds have turned brown. Some folks hang dry them, but when I did that, a lot of the seeds disappeared onto the floor beneath and got swept up with the dirt. (They are really TINY seeds.) So I put my flower heads on a white paper plate and let them dry there. Once they are dry, gently shake or tap the flower heads over the plate. If they don’t come right off, they are not dry enough yet. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until next year … or start a new crop now!
How to Store Italian Parsley
Fresh is always best! Just wash it, chop it, and add it to your recipe. However, the hope is you are growing SO much Italian parsley that you cannot use it all before it goes bad. In that case, you can preserve it. Some folks freeze it, but I prefer to dry mine. I use a dehydrator though so it is done in less time. Once dry, I carefully place it in a mason jar and vacuum seal it with a jar attachment to make it as airtight as possible. Using jars instead of baggies prevents crushing the herb any more than necessary. Crushing releases the flavors and aromas, so I wait until time to cook to crush my herbs.
The strongest flavor of an Italian parsley plant hides in the stem, so don’t waste them; use them. If you do not like the consistency of the stems, you can always use them in homemade stocks or broths. Or, you can dehydrate them, run them through your spice mill or grinder, and turn them into a powder. This powder will add incredible flavor to any dish, plus you get all those added nutrients!
A Few Facts on Parsley
Parsley is very nutritious! I was surprised to learn what a power packed herb it really is. (Italian parsley is the most nutritious of them all!) Very high in vitamins K, A, & C, it also has folate, iron, and many other wonderful properties. Learn more about the nutritional value of parsley right here.
In the second year, when parsley flowers and goes to seed, you will often see bees and other pollinators visiting your parsley plants. Also, parsley is popular with swallowtail butterflies. They are often observed using parsley as a host plant. Their tiny caterpillars will feed on the parsley while growing big enough for metamorphosis to occur. Of course, you may not want these little guys showing up in your food, but they rarely eat enough to be considered a problem. When I see them, I usually leave them be unless there are just too many.
Parsley is actually a pretty hardy little plant that resists pests and diseases pretty well. However, it does have a few enemies. Watch out for beetles, green peach aphids, carrot weevils and leafhoppers. Its most likely diseases will be leaf spot and blights. But with healthy, well drained soil, lots of sun (but not blazing heat), and a little TLC, your parsley is likely to do just fine.
A special thanks goes out to Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading for sharing her Italian Parsley photos! Thanks, Laurie!