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Herbs: Harvesting, drying, and cooking

It's the time of year where are gardens are getting put to bed, and we are harvesting as

much as we can of what's left. Let's go over how to harvest, and use your herbs!

 

Basil, sage, mint, parsley, thyme
Collection of herbs


Before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, let's go over some important terms:

  • Foliage herb: herbs you harvest the leaves from

Example- Basil, sage oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc...

  • Flower herbs: herbs you harvest the flowers from

Example- Chamomile, lavender, bee balm, etc...

  • Seed herbs: herbs you harvest seeds from

Example- Coriander, fennel, dill, etc...



 

Harvesting-


Time of the day is really important when it comes to harvesting herbs. Herbs have more flavor in the morning, and they lose their oils as the day goes on from the sun and heat. If you’re going to preserve, or want the most flavor for cooking, harvest in the morning.


The time of year can be important when harvesting herbs (If you are harvesting right before your last frost, you can ignore this next part for now). For foliage herbs, you will want to harvest before the plant bolts or goes to seed. Once a plant starts to bolt, it will be spending its energy trying to reproduce and spread its seed instead of reserving that energy to put into the foliage. For flowering herbs, harvest when the flowers open all the way. Lastly, for seed herbs you will want to harvest when the seeds have matured and dried.


There are a few tools that can assist you with harvesting. They are pictured below.



There are a few different ways to harvest, depending on what you are harvesting.


Harvesting leaves:

  • Branched herbs- cut from the new leaf growth

  • Stalk herbs- cut down to the soil

Both methods will generate new growth.


Harvesting flowers:

  • Pinch or snip off the flowers as they open and remove the entire flower head

  • For lavender, harvest by cutting the stalks where they emerge from the plant before the blossoms open

Harvesting seeds:

  • Let seed heads dry and turn brown, then harvest

  • Dill can be harvested in the green seed stage as well and be used in pickling

If you are looking for more information on seed harvesting, read our seed harvesting blog here: https://www.gvgh.com/post/seed-harvesting

 

Drying-


There are many different ways to dry herbs, I am going to go over five of the methods today.


  1. Traditional method- take a bunch and hang it upside down in a dark and dry basement, attic, or closet

  2. Air drying- (dry in a bunch like as previously mentioned) or pluck the leaves from the stem and lay them out on a rack or tray

  3. Microwave drying- separate leaves from the stems and wash what you want to save. Once dry, microwave between two paper towels for one minute

  4. Dehydrating- put leaves on a single layer tray and cook at the lowest setting for approximately 2-4 hours

  5. Oven drying- use a silicone mat, muslin, or cheese cloth. Lay out the herb leaves and set your oven to the lowest setting and bake for 30 minutes


Just like harvesting, there are some helpful tools for drying as well.



Another way to preserve your herbs is by freezing them. Simply clean and chop them up as desired, then put in a sealed bag and toss them in the freezer. Then, when you want to use them just grab some out of the bag and add to your dish. They'll taste fresh out of the garden! Here's a list of some herbs that are recommended to freeze...

  • Basil

  • Chives

  • Cilantro

  • Dill

  • Marjoram

  • Mint

  • Oregano

  • Parsley

  • Rosemary

  • Thyme

  • Sage


 

Cooking-


When cooking with herbs, there are some that are better used fresh, or better used dried. I have a list here but remember, taste is subjective!

Herbs best used fresh

  • Cilantro

  • Parsley

  • Basil

  • Mint

  • Dill

  • Chives

  • Sage

Herbs best used dried

  • Oregano

  • Marjoram

  • Thyme

  • Rosemary

  • Bay leaf

  • Fennel seed


basil pots, basil, herbs
Basil pots

Different herbs are staples in different dishes and cultural foods. I have a few examples laid out below.

Poultry-

Seafood-

Salads-

Italian-

Bay leaves

Bay leaves

Basil

Basil

Lemon balm

Marjoram

Cilantro

Oregano

Lemon grass

Thyme

Chives

Sage

Pineapple sage

Chives

Dill

Rosemary

Rosemary

Mint

Lemon balm

Thyme

Thyme

Rosemary

Mint

Basil

Dill

Parsley

Bee balm

Parsely

Tarragon

Sage

Lemon balm

Tarragon


 

Extra Information-


If you want to bring your herbs in to use during the winter, there are a few ways you can do that. First there is propagating. There are a couple of herbs that are very easy to propagate for winter use; basil, lavender, lemon balm, mint, and rosemary. Just snip the new growth (green stem), strip the leaves on the bottom few inches and stick it in some water!

You can also pot up your garden herbs. Make sure to find an appropriate size pot that will comfortably fit the root system. After potting it up, make sure to treat for pests before bringing it into your home. RoseX or Neem Oil works well on the foliage and is safe to use on edible plants. Diatomaceous earth is a white powder that that you mix into the soil to kill any pests in the pot. Once treated and brought in, make sure to water and trim to keep it healthy and vigorous!




Remember, have fun with it! Try a method you haven't heard of before.

Happy harvesting:)

-Megan

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