How to Harvest Herbs

by | Jun 19, 2011 | Herb Garden | 0 comments

Fresh herbs are a delightful way to add flavour to your cooking or aroma to candles and body products. And with a home herb garden, you can harvest herbs all summer long for tasty food and DIY projects around your home.

bunches of freshly harvested herbs

How to Harvest Herbs

Most herbs can be harvested throughout the season. Remember not to cut too much at one time so your plant will continue to grow all summer. The best time to harvest herbs is just prior to blooming. But if you do let flowers form, the blooms of culinary herbs are edible as well. Herbs should be clipped in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the day becomes too hot.

Harvest leafy, annual herbs like basil and marjoram by pinching off leaves from the tips of the stems right above a pair of leaves. The plant will sprout two new branches above the leaves and continue to grow. This encourages the plant to become bushy and produce more tender foliage. Harvest leafy tips frequently and clip off flower buds to keep the plant producing.

Herbs such as thyme, sage, and tarragon can be harvested by the stem or sprig. Harvest the herb by cutting the stems 3-4 inches up from the base of the plant. Harvest herbs with long stems like parsley and oregano by cutting the stem near the base of the plant. Harvest rosemary by cutting stems above a pair of leaves and it will branch out and continue to grow.

When harvesting flowering herbs, it depends on the variety. For lavender, you’ll want to cut it so it still has a portion of stem attached, usually a few inches above the base of the plant, leaving most or all of the foliage on the plant. For chamomile, you’ll likely just want to pick the flowers.

When harvesting seeds such as coriander, you’ll know it’s time to harvest when the seed-heads change colour and turn dry. Cut them on a hot, dry day as moist seeds may mold in storage. If kept properly they can be used throughout the fall and winter.

Drying Your Herbs

To capture your herbs’ flavours at their best, use them fresh. But at the end of the season, you will want to harvest all of your plants and dry or freeze them for use throughout the winter. The most simple way to dry herbs is in bunches upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area. Or you can use a dehydrator with the correct setting for herbs.

You can also use your oven or microwave. To dry herbs in the oven, spread them on a cookie sheet and bake at no more than 48 degrees C until the leaves are dry and crispy. To dry in the microwave, spread the herbs in an even layer between paper towels, and heat for 2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds. Leave them on the counter to complete drying.

Another easy way to preserve the freshness of herbs is to puree them into a paste and freeze it in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into a bag after they are frozen, and you will have pre-portioned, fresh herbs all winter! You can use this method with almost all of our culinary herbs.