Once planted, herbs benefits are immensely useful in so many ways. After an herb has grown and flourished, now is the time for harvesting. Timing is the critical factor. Can Herbs Survive your Green Thumb?
The best time to harvest your home herb garden is right after the leaves are dry from the morning dew and right before the flowers open for the day. Calm, dry midsummer mornings are a perfect time to harvest your herbs. Remember that the essential oils from herbs dissipate on overly humid days. Too much moisture while harvesting herbs produces fewer essential oils. The wind and hot heat can affect the essential oils as well; so timing is very important.
After you have chosen the perfect day for harvesting, next make sure to inspect your herbs for insects or damaged leaves. The herb will need a fair amount of foliage for re-growth so make sure you do not harvest no more than a third of the herbs foliage at any given time. If you are going to use a fresh herb straight from the garden, always clean them first before adding to a recipe. You can do this by placing the herbs in a bowl of fresh cool water. Do not run the herb directly under a faucet. If you have a large quantity of herbs you can always clean them in a sink. To drive away insects without damaging the plant, add about two tablespoons of salt to the water. Once clean, remove them from the water and dry them in a salad spinner.
When preserving your herbs for later use, you can either dry them, freeze them or even preserve them in a medium. To dry herbs, remove any foliage from the base of the stems and then bunch 6-12 stems together and fasten with a string or twine. Hang the bundle, away from sunlight, in a cool dry place. To dry individual leaves, place them on a screen for a good airing. Turn them often so they dry evenly. Other methods have been used in the past such as dehydrators, ovens or microwaves to dry herbs but have usually produced unsatisfactory results. The heat from the appliance dries the herb too rapidly so the herbs end up loosing their natural oils. The old fashion way works the best.
A fairly simple method of preserving herbs is to freeze them. First cut the fresh herb into about ¼ inch pieces and lay on a flat cookie sheet lined with waxed paper; then place the sheet in the freezer. After they are frozen, bunch them together in baggies and return them to the freezer for use at a later date.
A medium is usually used to preserve herbs. White vinegar for instance can be used as a cover on mint, tarragon or basil. Using this method will preserve the herbs for several months. To make a flavored salt as well as preserving your herbs at the same time, alternate layers of fresh herbs between layers of salt while drying. The salt draws the moisture and flavor from the herb. Once completely dried, separate the brown herb from the flavored salt and store both separately in airtight containers, preferable one that does not let the light in.
There are many different types of herbs for many different purposes. Each herb has it’s own unique characteristics as far as their use, harvesting, chopping or preserving them. To get the most out of your particular herb that you are interested in, research it well.
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