HARVESTING & PRESERVING HERBS
If you have herbs growing like crazy but just can’t use them fast enough, you are not alone! Try these methods to harvest and preserve your herbs so they don’t have to go to waste.
Let’s start with harvesting…
1. Cut healthy branches from your herb plants, remove any dry or diseased leaves, shake gently to remove insects.
2. If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Wet herbs will mold and rot.
3. Remove the lower leaves along the bottom inch of the branch.
• Herbs that will be used for cooking should be harvested just before the plant flowers. At this time in the plants life cycle, the oil content will be at it’s highest giving the herbs the best flavor. Two exceptions to this rule are French Tarragon and Sweet Bay which do not flower in the Minnesota climate.
• Although herbs are most flavorful before they flower, you can certainly harvest them before this time to use fresh. This will also promote new growth, extra branching and over all a larger plant.
• Anise, Caraway, Coriander and Dill are 4 herbs that can be harvested for their ripened seed heads. These seed heads will appear after the herbs finishes flowering.
• When harvesting annual herbs, don’t be afraid to cut them back to about 4-5 inches from the grown wherever the plant looks healthy and lush.
• First year perennial and biennial herbs shouldn’t be trimmed as often as annual herbs. These herbs need the energy from the leaves to promote healthy root growth for future success and larger, healthier plants in following years.
• As a general rule of thumb, after the first year of growth and establishment, hardy perennial harbs should be harvested up to 2/3 of their growth in the spring and summer. No more than 1/3 of the herbs should be harvested in the fall.
Screen drying: use a screen door or window, a wire rack, or a plastic tray with a grid bottom. Cover with paper towels, cheesecloth, muslin, or old nylons. Place herbs in a single layer on the tray and allow as much air as possible to flow around them by elevating the tray. Place the tray in a dark and dry location.
Bunch drying: hang tied bunches of herbs upside down on an indoor clothesline, pegs, nails, or drying rack in a dark and dry location.
Bag drying: place bunched herbs in a paper bag and tie closed. Hang the bag upside down on an indoor clothesline, pegs, nails, or drying rack in a dry location.