It is important to harvest your herbs at their peak so that you can preserve the maximum of their essential fragrances and flavors. Whether your are going to use them fresh in a salad, or dry them for crafts or Culinary Purposes use. They should be at their best.
Using Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs have only a limited life span before they begin to lose their qualities, so if you have herbs in the garden, only pick what you need when you need it. Use a sharp pair of scissors so that you do not damage the plant; most garden herbs will benefit from such regular trimming.
If you need to store fresh herbs, wash them gently, taking care not to bruise the leaves. Shake them dry, then place them in an unsealed polythene bag and keep at the bottom of the refrigerator; they will last for about a week.
Leaves & Flowers
When you are harvesting herbs for preserving, pick them at their most aromatic. Choose a dry day, as the herbs need to be as dry as possible when you pick them and be up early; harvest in the morning when the dew has dispersed, before the midday heat.
Leaves should be harvested just before the herb comes into flower. Snip off sprigs about 10cm/4 inches long, using sharp scissors so that you leave a clean cut and do not damage the tender stems of the plant. Flower heads should generally be harvested when the flowers have just opened and are in perfect shape; lavender flowers, however should be slightly immature.
Deal with small quantities at a time for the best results and collect only the plants that are healthy, well established and free from disease or pests. Handle the herbs carefully as they bruise easily and bruising will affect their flavor and aroma. Never leave cut herbs lying around waiting to be prepared, as they will rapidly deteriorate; deal with them as quickly as possible.
Roots and Seeds
Roots are usually lifted in autumn at the end of the growing season, when they are mature and richest in stored food. Lift the whole root with a fork, being careful not to puncture the skin. Shake off excess soil and carefully wash the roots. Cut off the top growth and fibrous rootleys then cut the root into section or slices.
Seed heads are ready for harvesting when the seeds are ripe and brown, just before the plant is ready to shed them. Check the seed heads by rubbing one between your palms; the seeds should shed easily. Put a muslin (cheesecloth) or paper bag over the seed head and secure with a twist-tie or twist of wire. Now the seed heads can be snipped off without losing any of the seeds.
Successful Gardening ~
Kali S. Winters