Sage Advice About Herbs: Parsley, from Garden to Kitchen

How To Grow, Harvest, And Cook With Parsley

What Is Parsley?

Parsley is a bright green biennial plant native to the Mediterranean, both east and west. Grow it in your garden to use in the kitchen. Low maintenance, requiring only a small, sunny spot, we eat it in many cuisines, think of, Chimichurri, Pesto, Tabbouleh, and English Parsley Sauce. It is a rich source of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as the B group of vitamins. In addition, it provides dietary fiber and minerals. Parsley is said to spring from the blood of a Greek hero, Archemorus, and today; it is naturalized everywhere and used in cuisines throughout the world.

How to grow Parsley

Parsley-Petroselinum crispum, is a member of the Apiaceae family, which includes the carrot.

Parsley’s Flavor Profile-Its High Note

Parsley- flavor high note

Parsley adds a high note to any food you add it to. What’s that? A high note is bright, effervescent, and sparkly. Its flavor hits the roof of your mouth. Expect parsley to provide an unmistakable fresh and peppery taste to your dish. It will brighten food the way a dash of lemon will do.

Use parsley in soup, sauce, and salad, it not only brings its own bright flavor but reduces our need for salt in cooking.

Parsley’s Long History With Us

The early Romans used it to cure a hangover (and they knew hangovers); your grandma put it around the serving plates at Thanksgiving. Before Grandma, the ancient Greeks said it was sacred and put it around the brows of champion athletes and would Never let it on the table. Why so many opposing ideas?

Sage Advice About Using Parsley In The Kitchen

Parsley should have a bright green color and a mild aroma. It has a unique ability to blend easily with other herbs and spices to create new flavors for your meals. Simple and adaptable to grow, raising your own is convenient and cost-effective. If you buy cut parsley, look for color, freshness, and aroma.

Parsley Benefits

Parsley offers us impressive health benefits. It has more vitamin C than oranges; it is high in vitamin K, important for bone health, and brings us calcium, iron, and fiber. Also, it is low in calories; for 11 calories, in total, you can eat 1/2 cup. Parsley has been used over the years to treat high blood pressure, allergies, and inflammation.

When And How To Harvest Parsley

mature stem of parsley

Parsley is ready to be harvested when the leaf stems have three segments. As parsley is a biennial, starting in the first year, you can cut stems from the outside of the plant. This will allow the inner stalks to keep growing. Continue to harvest and use the leaves and stems in the second year. You will notice that as this year progresses, the flavor will become gradually more bitter.

Don’t Overlook The Benefits of The Taproot

People overlook this feature I have. You can harvest the edible taproot. The taste of parsley root is likened to a combination of celeriac, parsley, and carrot.

Peel it and slice it into thin rounds to fry into chips or grate it to make fritters.

  • boil it to use in soups and sauces. Mix it with three parts of boiled potato, and make a new version of mashed potato.
  • Shave it raw onto salad and slaw.

How To Harvest And Store Parsley For The Kitchen

Pick parsley, like other herbs, for the day’s use in mid-morning after the dew has dried. Keep it washed, dried, and standing in a container of water, with the leaves always above the water. You can store it for several days in the refrigerator like this. Change the water every two days. I have tried various ways of storing it in bags and damp paper, but the water glass trick always helps it to last longer.

Freezing Parsley

You can freeze it. Chop it and blend it in ice cube trays (yes, you can still buy them) with a bit of olive oil or water. This is very convenient for making soups and stews.

How To Cook With Parsley

parsley butter
  • Mix cut parsley into fresh salads.
  • Use parsley on cooked vegetables with butter, salt, and pepper. It adds a bright, peppery element;
  • Parsley Butter. Make a compound butter with chopped parsley, and add lemon juice and garlic for added flavor.
  • The stems of parsley are extremely flavorful. Chop them to use with the foliage or tie them together to flavor soups and stocks.
  • Parsley is a traditional ingredient in Boquet Garni, recipes for this vary, but French recipes traditionally include thyme, bay, and parsley.
  • Make a sauce of parsley, olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper to serve over roasted vegetables and potatoes.
  • A marinade for steak, parsley, chive, tarragon, lemon zest, and olive oil.

This will help you to make compound butter in various flavors.

Some Recipes Using Parsley In The Kitchen

  • Bouquet Garni, a step-by-step guide, Food Network, use in soup, stew, sauce, and braises.
  • Chimichurri Sauce-Food and Wine. Bright green sauce from Argentina; try it on steak, fish, or chicken.
  • Gremolata, Epicurious. This is a zesty Italian herb sauce.

Sage Advice About Growing Parsley In The Garden

You can start it from inexpensive starter plants or from seed. (I use the little plants because my workspace is tight, Parsley is also slow to germinate, and, well, patience is in short supply!) Plant the starter plant at about the same depth as in the container.

If you start with seeds sow the seeds outdoors about three to four weeks before the last spring frost. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and it helps to soak the seeds to increase the germination rate.

The Best Soil For Parsley

Your parsley plant will grow best in rich, organic, and well-drained soil. The ideal soil pH for parsley is 6.0, which is slightly acidic.

You can grow it in your garden bed or in containers. It needs moist, rich, and well-drained soil and 6-8 hours of sun during the day. The morning sun is the easiest.

When growing parsley in containers, make sure the container is deep enough to hold at least 12″ of soil. This will accommodate the taproot.

Water And Fertilizer To Grow Parsley For The Kitchen

Water Parsley 2-3 times per week. In our South Florida garden, it needs extra water except for the rainy season when it needs umbrellas! Water Parsley in the morning and apply the water near the ground. Diseases are related to excess water on the foliage.

If you have similar problems, try your herb plants in pots. In our climate, it helps to be able to move the plants when we expect too much sun or rain.

Feed with a 5-10-5 vegetable fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the container, and it should typically be 1.5 oz for every 5 feet of garden space. Feed at planting time and again in midseason.

How To Grow Parsley In Containers

Parsley growing in container, sage advice for herbs-parsley, garden to kitchen

Plants in containers require more water and fertilizer. Plant in a good quality potting mix. What is that? This piece will help you select potting soil, including how to read the useful information printed on the opaque bag. You can’t see the potting soil, but there is helpful information if you know how to find it.

What To Expect From A Biennial Plant-Why Start One Every Year?

If you have trouble with humidity causing damage to parsley in late summer, try planting some in containers. Having the ability to move the plant for different light conditions is helpful. Parsley is a biennial, which means it will create seeds in the second year. I am cooking with one in its second year, and it is still tasty.

The biennial nature of Parsley means that in the second year, it will begin to ” bolt,” i.e., to start to set seeds. At this point, the plant is ending its life, and the leaves become smaller, and the taste starts to become bitter.

It is an interesting fact that if you grow backyard herbs, your taste buds become very sensitive to the life cycle of your plant. I plant some parsley every year to ensure that there is enough to cook with.

As you cook with your own fresh herbs, you will use them often. You will always want to have enough. Both parsley and basil are used in dense herbal sauces, and that can use up your supply.

Pests And Diseases

Parsley is a sturdy, healthy plant, but there are some issues. You will notice that water is involved in several.

Diseases of Parsley Plants

Leaf Spot is caused by the Septoria Fungus. Are you seeing spots on leaves? This happens when fungal spores in the air find warm, wet foliage to rest on. The fungus grows, the leaf turns brown, falls to the ground carrying the fungus, and the dance goes on!

One such disease is Powdery Mildew which tends to be associated with high humidity. On young leaves, you will begin to see blisters followed by curling leaves. Finally, the soft, white powdery area covers the leaves.

In Crown and Root Rot, the plant will wilt and collapse. In this case, a fungus has invaded the plant’s roots and crown. The fungus causes the plant to clog up and fail. To prevent this disease, avoid planting in very wet conditions, and rotate the location of new Parsley plants each year. Clean the planters with a bleach solution before reusing them.

Botrytis Blight (gray mold) shows tan to brown areas on the leaves. To prevent the disease, avoid overhead watering.

Dealing With Fungal Diseases

Water management and general cleanliness are the best ways to have healthy plants and lots of dinners. If you see serious problems read this piece. It is a detailed report on parsley disease. It was written by Australian researchers and is designed for commercial agriculture, and it is thorough.


Parsley is a host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly, and her caterpillars will devour it. Encouraging pollinators is a great thing to do. We, however, like to eat also. We have a yard full of butterflies, but we do locate the garden most attractive to butterflies at some distance from the herb garden. So far, so good…

Pruning Parsley Is Productive

A healthy parsley plant is bushy in shape, dense, and requires full sun. Light requirements for herbs will vary by climate. In our South Florida climate, parsley is happy in part shade.

Wherever you plant your parsley, maintain that bushy, dense shape.

Regular plant trimming will encourage photosynthesis.

Choose the foliage for the kitchen this way. Trim taller, more leafy stems by cutting low on the stem and choosing tall leaves and those from the outer edge of the plant. If you find that you use parsley in many dishes and use a lot of it as we do, grow more than one plant and trim a little of what you need from each of them. Doing this should give you a full season of eating without damaging the plants.

Keep the portion of the plant you harvest at one time to one-third of the total or less, and your parsley will remain healthy and produce for another day.

How To Delay Bolting

Bolting is the name we give to the process of the plant producing flowers and seeds, which occur at the end of its life. The pleasant contrast that all herbs give to us is the fact that the more we take from them, the more foliage the plant produces.

To avoid bolting, prevent stress from damaging the plant. Plant in Parsley’s best seasons (Plant Parsley in spring once the ground is workable. If you see signs of flowering, remove the buds. Here is a good article on plant bolting.

Use And Storage

Cut parsley for the day in the cool morning and keep fresh in water

If possible, cut Parsley for the kitchen early in the morning or late afternoon. Use it immediately or store it for the day or a little longer in a jar of water. Unlike Basil, which turns black in the refrigerator, Parsley can be refrigerated. You can chop the leaves and make ice cubes of them for the freezer. These are very convenient later when making soups and stocks. (The flavor of dried Parsley is not anything like that of fresh.) This alone is a good reason to grow some all year on the windowsill!

Do not overlook the stems. They have a richer flavor than the leaves. Use them in soups and stocks.

Types of Parsley To Consider For Cooking

The two obvious distinctions are flat and curly. Both contain the same flavor compounds, but the balance of these compounds is very different, and that changes how they taste. Both types of parsley contain

  • menthatriene
  • phellandrene
  • myristicin
  • myrcene

Here is how to recognize and use them.

Curley parsley

This is the curly parsley that Grandma put on the Thanksgiving platter. The flavor is considered grassy and milder than the flat Italian parsley, and this fact makes it a little less popular. It can become bitter, particularly as it starts to set seeds.

Curly Parsley- Petroselinum cuspum neapolitanum-Advantages

Here are its advantages, the flavor is milder, you may like that fact; its frilly nature makes it decorative; it stands out on the plate and in the garden. It is bright green in color, a pretty way to use Parsley as a decorative companion plant. It is bulkier in a dish that can be helpful in certain dishes. In Tabbouleh, for example, it increases the green portion. In cooking, mince it very small.

Flat Italian parsley

Flat Italian Parsley-Petroselum cuspum-Advantages

This one has a bold, aromatic flavor and broad flat leaves. The foliage color ranges from dark green to bright green. Its vibrancy makes it more recommended for cooking. Try them both yourself and decide.

Japanese Parsley (Cryptotaenia japonica)

This is grown as a root vegetable. It has heart-shaped, ruffled leaves with bronze or purple stems. Cooks who have experience with it say that it has a celery-like taste.

Hamburg Rooted Parsley (Petroselinum hortense)

We have records of this being a popular vegetable dating from the 1600s. It is a parsnip-like root vegetable served baked and in soups. The leaves are decorative and used as a garnish.

Companion Plants For Parsley

Plant parsley near asparagus, carrots, chives, corn, onion, and tomatoes. When planted in containers, it performs well with tomatoes in the same container. You can sprinkle the leaves on asparagus to repel asparagus beetles.

Planted near roses, it will improve their scent.


Some important points to know about Parsley are that it is quite easy to grow and it is appropriate for gardens large and small. It enhances the meals we eat in many ways, and the health benefits are considerable. Consider these facts.

If you have ever had that “what can I make for dinner” moment, I often do, but in minutes, with very few other ingredients, I can stop at the kitchen garden and have pesto from my basil and Chimichurri sauce from the Parsley on the table.

Parsley is a superior source of nutrition, including antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that may protect our cells against free radicals, which may play a role in diseases like cancer and heart disease.

It contains the flavonol myricetin, which studies link to the prevention of several cancers. It has many vitamins including Vitamin C and K, which influence bone health, calcium absorption, and blood clotting.

The recommended daily amount is small 1.5 tablespoons. But you can find uses for much more!