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Harvesting herbs from your garden doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, herb gardening is a simple way to have fresh herbs at your disposal almost any time that you want. Setting up space in your garden for herbs can provide you with many options when it comes to using the herbs to add flavor and aroma for cooking.
Today we’ll look at the steps you need to take to be able to grow culinary herbs and harvest herbs with ease.
When Is the Best Time to Harvest Your Herb Garden?
The best time to harvest your herb garden is going to be the late morning hours of the day. This allows time for your herbs to dry from the morning dew. Letting the plant partly air dry makes it easier to cut without tearing.
It’s also important to harvest before the hot sun starts bearing down on the plant, too. The sun will evaporate the oils that the herb plant produces. That will take away some of the aromas and possibly taste as well.
Make certain that you’re careful when you’re harvesting herbs as some are brittle and others have oil that you don’t want to disturb. Handling them with care will ensure that you’re keeping the taste and flavor as natural as you possibly can.
How to Harvest Herbs
How you harvest the herbs really depends on the plant. The one thing that is consistent when gathering herbs is that you need to use sharp scissors or shears when cutting the stems. This is especially important in stemmed herbs. You don’t want to tear or damage any part of the stem if possible.
For herbs that are considered leafy like basil, you’re going to want to actually pinch off a leaf that is above a pair of leaves.
This means that that portion of the basil plant will grow again, and that plant part will be ready to harvest again in a few short weeks of time. This is a simple way to get more herbs in a shorter period of time.
For perennial herbs like thyme, you’re actually going to want to cut the stems. Leave a few inches from the very bottom of the plant so that it continues to sprout and grow.
You can continue to trim perennial herbs over and over again until the first frost is just a few weeks away.
You may notice that some herbs produce flowers! While they’re beautiful to look at, they’re also tasty to eat as well. Chamomile can be easily picked as an individual flower, while harvesting chives is a little bit different.
You might notice that chives will grow big flowers in clusters and those flowers are actually good to eat. The easiest way to harvest them is to gather the stems up in a bunch and clip them with shears. Leave about an inch or so near the base so that they’ll regrow, and that’s all you’ll have to do.
Many people use dill in their cooking, and this is one herb that is not only harvested as leaves but seeds too. You’ll notice that the seed head will turn into a flower of sorts and the seeds will then become visible and easy to see. Allow them to dry out, pick out the seeds, and use them in your cooking.
It’s a good idea to have a container or something underneath while you’re getting the seeds out because there’s a chance that they will all fall out as soon as you attempt to harvest one.
Tips for Drying and Storage
If you’re hoping to preserve herbs, learning how to properly dry and store them is key. One of the key factors to consider when drying herbs is that you need to act quickly once you’ve harvested them.
This is because the longer you wait, the more that the natural oils are going to dry out and the flavor is going to diminish. While it’s true that the herbs need to be dried completely before storing, the process below tells how to effectively air dry your herbs with ease.
Air Drying Your Herbs
Air drying herbs is the simplest way to save herbs for later. You can air dry in bunches, or individual leaves.
The easiest way to dry herbs is to tie the stems together and hang them upside down in a warm location, out of the sun.
Hold the stems together with a rubber band so that as the herbs shrink, they’ll stay together and not fall. this method can take up to 2 weeks to completely dry. You can hang these in your kitchen and use as needed (just make sure to protect them from dust).
You can also separate the leaves and spread them out on a wire rack lined with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Turn the leaves over a couple of times a day for even drying. Herbs dried this way will be ready for storage in a couple of days.
Dehydrating your Herbs
If you live in an area that has a moody climate, you can use your food dehydrator to help to dry out your herbs. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to lay them flat on the screen and go on low and slow heat. This should dry them out easily and not harm them in the process.
You can also dry out the seeds by spreading them out on a paper plate or paper towels and letting them air dry for a few weeks. The seeds will need to be taken out of the seed head for this to work as each individual seed will need to be dried.
Once you’ve dried out the herbs, you can move forward with picking the leaves off the stems and storing the leaves in containers that are free from the outside air and other potential contaminants. Glass jars with screw-on lids are best but other airtight containers will work as well.
If you can store the herbs in a cool area of your home out of the sunlight, this is what will keep their flavor intact and keep them having the most taste. As long as they’re stored properly, your herbs should be good to use for up to 12 months. This will be the length of time that they’ll have the most flavor and taste.
Harvesting herbs from your garden is a simple and easy process and can help take your homemade dishes to a whole new level of flavor.
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