How to harvest parsley – for flavor-packed results

Find out how to harvest parsley and be rewarded with a fresh, tangy and plentiful crop

Freshly picked parsley
(Image credit: Parsley Caterina Bruzzone / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Knowing how to harvest parsley can be hugely satisfying. The pleasure of snipping these fresh home-grown herbs that are packed with flavor is hard to beat, particularly as it is such a fast-growing and versatile plant.

Brimming with vitamins A, C and K plus known to help improve kidney and heart health, there’s little excuse not to find room for a parsley patch or pot somewhere in your yard.

Often thought of as an annual, you grow parsley as a biennial – it produces tangy leaves in its first year and seed in the second. The two most popular types are flat (aka Italian) and curled leaved parsley. 

‘Parsley’s generic herbal flavor makes it great for mixing with other herbs,’ says Niki Segnit in her book The Flavor Thesaurus. ‘The flat-leaf variety usually has a stronger flavor and leaves that are more tender than those of curly parsley.’

Below, our handy guide for expert parsley harvesting will ensure you get the best from your crop, whether you are looking for herb garden ideas or growing herbs indoors.

‘Why buy bunches of parsley from the shops when you can easily grow more than you need at home, but also fresh cut parsley is much better in flavour and richer in nutrients. Valued for its vibrant, fresh flavour and rich nutritional content,’ says Will Lobina and Polly Winsor of Hillside Herbs. 

How to harvest parsley

Although sometimes slow to germinate from seed, once parsley gets going it is a pretty fast grower and highly rewarding. Delicious, tangy and handy for flavoring soups, salads and fish dishes it also looks decorative too.

1. Harvest long stalks

‘Parsley is one of the easier herbs to harvest and can be enjoyed many times. Cut the long stalks above where new leaves are growing from the central stem,’ advises Jackie Sommer of Purple Sage Farms.

2. Harvest outer leaves

Experts at the Hudson Valley Seed Company add, ‘Harvest large outer leaves and allow new inner leaves to mature for continual harvest. In temperate climates parsley is biennial; with the protection of a cold frame or snow cover, it comes back each spring and can be harvested for about a month before it goes to seed.’

3. Don't harvest if parsley is flowering

‘If you have it growing in the ground, don’t pull it out when it flowers as it readily self seeds and before long you will have a lovely clump,’ says Lorraine Melton of Herbal Haven. ‘I have seen parsley growing well in both full sun and more shaded positions, it isn’t too fussy in aspect, but it does like to have a well-drained fertile soil.’

Does parsley grow back after cutting?

During its first year of growth parsley produces endless amounts of tasty leaf. The more that is picked, the more fresh foliage the plant produces. In the second year though, this biennial herb diverts its energy into flowering and making seed, after which it will die.

Where to you cut parsley when harvesting

Parsley leaves and stems are both delicious so you can decide whether to simply pinch of a few individual leaves or cut off entire stems. Stems are best snipped off right at the base of the plant, just above soil level as this will encourage new basal shoots to form.

Jill Morgan
Contributing Editor

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.