Harvesting Herbs

I harvest my herbs by the growing condition of the herb, rather than by a specific date or month. It is important to harvest the herbs just as the buds first appear. This allows for the greatest flavor and fragrance to be captured. In the long wintry months, I love having plenty of dried herbs on hand. Keeping this in mind, I make sure to harvest and dry various herbs during the summer and fall. Early in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, but before the sun gets hot, is the best time for collecting herbs.

Leafy perennial herbs should never be cut back as severely as annuals. I remove only one – third of the top growth at a time, and in the more delicate variety, remove only the leafy tips. Careful pruning insures new growth and a healthy compact plant. Always clean your herbs before drying and storing. Wash the herbs well, removing any damaged leaves. I drain my herbs on screen frames, this allows good air flow around the herb material as they are drying.

When drying branches of herbs; first wash and dry, then gather four to five stems together and tie into a bundle. I then place these bundles into brown paper bags leaving stems extending out the open end. Hang these in a dark, well ventilated, warm place. Drying time varies usually three to five weeks. The oven or microwave may be used for drying herbs, freezing is another method of storing herbs. I add clean fresh herbs with water to my ice trays. When they are frozen, I place these herb ice cubes into labeled bags and store in the freezer, I add a cube or two to a nice hot pot of soup for flavoring.  In the summertime I always have some ice cubes with rose petals and lavender on hand, these add such a colorful touch to a nice cool refreshing glass of lemonade or iced tea.

Collect pretty containers that are airtight, and store your herbs in these. The containers need to be stored in a cool dry place. Avoid light and heat, as both will destroy the quality of the herbs.