Saturday, August 6, 2016

Harvesting and drying herbs

Basil in center, silvery sage on the left
Saturday, August 6, 2016

Herbs have a tendency to take a walk on the wild side.  Harvesting your herbs throughout the summer helps keep them looking tidy and healthy.  Harvest herbs for seasoning dishes, sauces, meats and dressings for the next year.

When you harvest your herbs, you will have enough for at least 5 families with just a single plant of each type! They make wonderful gifts. 

For soft herbs like chives and garlic chives, I cut around the outside.  Towards fall, you can cut them a couple of inches from the ground.  You can either dry or freeze your cuttings.  I like going ahead and chopping them, letting them dry and putting into jars.  You won't need much because chives are perennials and you can harvest from the plant almost year round.  Quick tip-don’t let chives go to seed
Common chives in bloom
For rosemary, I trim back as I would a tree, cutting off the lower limbs.  I have not been successful in finding a rosemary that survives outside in my Zone 6 region, even the Barbecue rated to Zone 6 and Arp rated to Zone 5.  Before winter, I will harvest all the limbs so I don't waste any of that great flavor.  Rosemary is perfect with lamb, on potatoes, or on cheese bread.

For sage, savory, and thyme, I simply trim them into a pleasing, healthy shape.  For basil, oregano and marjoram, I remove about half of the top growth.  Basil also will not survive even a slight frost.  So when they call for frost, I harvest all that is left on the plant.  You can take cuttings from basil to start the herb in a pot and bring indoors for the winter.  I dry basil gently as it looses its flavor easily.  I also use most of the fresh basil for pesto.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

I prefer drying my herbs to preserve them.  I put loosely in a paper bag in a dry, warm area out of the sun and let dry naturally.  Loose is the key here so they get good air circulation and do not mold.  They should be completely dry in about 3-4 weeks.  I like putting them in clothes closets to dry as they release such great fragrance and the darkness helps keep the flavor in the herb.

Once dried, remove the leaves from woody herbs and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.  If a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container.  I use wide mouth canning jars for herb storage.

If the winter is not a bad one, most perennial herbs like chives, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme can be harvested year round straight from the garden.

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