Parsley is a beautiful herb that really excels when pulled fresh from the plant- but can you freeze fresh parsley? Read on to find out more about how you can enjoy this wonderful herb too!
Though mainly used as a garnish, one of the world’s most popular herbs is surprisingly nutritious and contains vitamins K, C, and A as well as folate and iron. It’s found in dishes from around the world from pasta to tabbouleh and can be used to flavor a variety of meats and sauces.
Often thought of as an annual plant, parsley – along with sage and stevia – is one of the rare, biennial herbs in the world. Only the leaves grow during the first season, with flowers and seeds appearing after overwintering.
Parsley can be easy to grow at home even without experience, and we’ve compiled everything you need to know to succeed.
Choosing your parsley variety
The most common types of parsley are the curly-leaf and flat-leaf, or Italian, varieties. Curly-leaf parsley works well in salads and other cold dishes due to its mild taste and interesting texture. The more robust and bold-flavored flat-leaf variety is excellent in sauces and warm dishes.
Seeds or cuttings?
Whether you choose curly-leaf or flat-leaf, you can either begin growing parsley either from seeds or cuttings.
Seeds should be started indoors in peat pots or plug trays at ½” deep in a seed-starting potting mix. They can also be sown outdoors at 1¼” deep. Seeds may germinate better if they’re soaked overnight.
If you’ve started late in the planting season, or are simply impatient to begin enjoying your own homegrown parsley, some growers suggest that it is faster, to begin with a cutting from a healthy plant.
The cutting should have 3”-4” of the stem with a healthy thatch of leaves at the top. While preparing the soil, the cutting should be placed in a cup of cool water – remember to disinfect your tools with rubbing alcohol between cuts to prevent the spreading of disease.
Place the cutting an inch into the potting mixture, gently packing it around the base. When the roots sprout, usually after 2 weeks, the cuttings are ready to be transplanted outdoors.
When to plant parsley
Parsley is a hardy plant that can handle cold weather and can be sown outdoors 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost. As it’s a slow starter, the plants can take up to 3 weeks to sprout.
If planting indoors, you can begin 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost in your area.
Parsley seeds should be sown at least 6” apart, though to keep the plants thinner, 8”-10” spacing is better. If planting multiple rows, they can also be interspersed with companion plants which is a more efficient use of smaller gardens.
What are good companion plants for parsley?
Parsley seeds can be interspersed with rows of radish or lettuce when planted outdoors. The radishes will help shape the parsley plants and mark the rows while the seedlings sprout. They will be harvested by the time the parsley begins to grow. Lettuce will have the same effect, though it shouldn’t be paired with more mature parsley, as they will compete for resources.
Parsley can also be planted near other herbs such as chives – or with vegetables like carrots, peppers, onions, and corn. They can also be sown near tomatoes and are a very beneficial companion plant for asparagus.
In a container indoors
Parsley is an excellent choice for an indoor herb garden, or even as a potted plant. The container should be at least 6” deep and each plant will need at least 2”-4” of growth space.
Your plant will thrive if placed in the sunlight of a south-facing or west-facing window for between six and eight hours daily. Some growers suggest using fluorescent light to help the seedlings grow – it should be kept at least 2” above the leaves at all times.
While the seeds are germinating, the soil should be kept moist, though it can be allowed to dry slightly between waterings once the plant is established.
Growing parsley in the garden
As mentioned earlier, parsley thrives in areas with plenty of natural light – the ideal soil is moist, rich, and should be finely tilled. It is essential, especially during the sprouting period, to keep the area weed-free.
Water evenly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings; in an area with frequent rain, it may not be necessary to water the plants more than weekly.
If the plants become crowded, fully harvest or transplant every second plant to allow the others to flourish. Young parsley plants can be moved easily and respond well to transplanting, but once the taproot has developed, transplanting can impact the health of the plant.
Parsley is prone to crown/root rot, where fungi and bacteria found in the soil cause the roots to decay, turning the leaves yellow and brown.
It can also be subject to blight – a disease caused by the Botrytis fungus – which is also known as gray mold. Brown or black spots will appear on the leaves, followed by grayish fungal growth over the leaf surface. The leaves will fail to thrive, and the plant will likely die.
The Septoria fungus can also cause leaf spots, where yellow spots will appear on the foliage and leaves wilt and fall off, weakening the plant. This is the most dangerous of the parsley plant diseases and can kill off an entire crop.
If caught early enough, some fungal diseases can be cleared up by a sulfur fungicide. Heavily infected plants should be pulled up and discarded.
A surprising gardening partner
The black swallowtail butterfly often lays its eggs on parsley plants. Though you may think that supporting young caterpillars would be detrimental to the herb, in fact, if only one or two larvae are present, their nibbling can actually help the plant to flourish. While pruning the leaves, the caterpillar excrement is also a useful fertilizer for the parsley.
When to harvest
You may begin to harvest the parsley once the shoots are at least 3”-4” tall and the leaf stems have three segments. Once the plant is established, harvesting some parsley daily or weekly will encourage vigorous growth.
How to harvest
It’s best to cut leaves from the periphery of the plant, leaving the innermost leaves to mature. Using a disinfected knife or scissors, cut away part or all of the stems to be used. Be sure to leave sufficient stems behind to encourage further growth.
Where should parsley be stored?
If not using the parsley immediately after harvesting, it can be stored in the refrigerator; place the cut stalks in some water.
How long will it last?
The refrigerated parsley will last at least a week or two; so long that is has not turned brown, it’s still usable.
How can I preserve parsley?
There are different ways to preserve parsley – the most common method is to dry it. Cut stems at the base of the plant, then hang them in a warm place that is shady and airy. Once dried, the parsley can be crumbled and stored in an airtight container.
Can you freeze fresh parsley?
Another method is freezing. Using an ice cube tray, chop the parsley into individual portions, then place each portion into a section of the tray. Fill the section with water, then freeze it. When cooking, simply pop out a portion and add it to your favorite recipe.