I like to call herbs ‘domesticated plants’ because they’ll flourish when we give them regular attention. They want to be harvested! Pruning them back at least once a year will keep them maintained and encourage good looking fresh foliage.
You know how mint and lemon balm get pretty crazy in the garden? I’m ok with that, because it means I can harvest a lot of it and I know it won’t hurt the plant.
Herbs can be harvested all throughout its growing season small amounts at a time, or all at once in fall. It just depends how you’d like to use the herbs and how big the plants are.
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Once dried, the herbs shrivel up so they take little storage space. I use herbs for all sorts of things- teas, tinctures, simmering potpourri, and even for chicken feed and bedding. Later on this fall in time for Christmas, I hope to have some herbal goods made for the EARTHeim Etsy Shop. Including, the famous simmering potpourri!
In spring and fall, mother nature gives us deadlines when it comes to gardening. But, she doesn’t tell us when these deadlines are until they’re just around the corner! I scurried around my garden for a couple of days harvesting all my herbs so I wouldn’t get caught by frost later in the week. I slept well those nights!
Some of the herbs were annual and some perennial. The annual ones I fully harvested and the perennial ones I just pruned back. The annuals I cut at the base and leave the roots, which I’ll take care of next spring. I brought the herbs inside and laid them on newspaper around my house to begin processing.
Some herbs I allow to dry on the newspaper or a tray, but others I dry in a dehydrator. Certain ones like parsley, nasturtium, and basil, do better because they’ll retain their green color. Other herbs, like sage with its thick leaves, dries faster. I had to put the dehydrator in the garage while drying nasturtium, because it stinks during the process! The mint took no time and smelled a lot better.
To harvest rosemary, I run my hands down the stem to strip the leaves off. I lay the leaves on a baking sheet to dry. I took cuttings this year to see if I can get some to take root. It would be nice to not have to buy the plants again, and I can sell the extras.
After processing, I slightly compact the herbs to fit in a storage container. This may be a mason jar, or just a freezer ziplock bag. I then label, because I think I’ll remember what it is…but maybe not!
I try and keep the herbs in whole pieces as much as possible. They’ll keep their flavor better this way. I’ll crush the herb later as I’m cooking with it. I always add most of the herbs during the last moments of cooking the food. The flavor of the herbs come out a lot more this way.