I plant parsley for the caterpillars. It has grown all winter and is getting very long. Should I cut it back or leave it and let it grow. Also how and when should I harvest it if I want to use fresh parsley? How do you dry it for later use? I live in zone 7/8.
Consider leaving last season’s parsley for the caterpillars and starting fresh plants for your use. Parsley is a biennial. It grows just leaves the first season. These over winter and the plant sets flower and seed the second year. Remove the flower stems as soon as they appear if you plan to harvest leaves from the older plants. Many gardeners (myself included) and cooks find the foliage bitter and less desirable the second season. You may even find the caterpillars prefer your fresh crop of parsley to the older plants. Harvest parsley as needed throughout the season. Remove the outer stems first discarding any of the less flavorful discolored stems. You can air dry parsley flat on trays or hanging in bunches or speed up the process using the oven, dehydrator or microwave. Wash the parsley thoroughly and remove any tough stems. Secure several stems together with a rubber band then hang the bundle upside down in a warm, dark dry place to dry. Or spread individual stems on a tray. Place the tray in a warm well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight. Drying can take a week or more depending on the temperature and humidity. Speed up the process using your microwave. Place 4 or 5 stems of washed parsley between a double-layer of paper towel. Microwave the parsley on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Microwave for an additional 30 seconds if the parsley is not dry. Fully dried herbs will be brittle and rattle when stirred. Store dried herbs in an airtight container for later use.