How you harvest depends on what you are harvesting and how you
plan to use what you harvest. If you are adding to your salad
or making a spaghetti sauce, you will harvest a few sprigs of
what you need. Or you might be cutting the entire clump of certain
plants a few inches above the ground. In my opinion, there are
two important things to think about when you want to pick herbs:
the time of day and the time of the season. The best time of day
is on a sunny morning after the dew has dried. That's when the
oil content is highest in the plants-I like to think of it as
the energy of the plants is at its strongest. If you follow this
rule of thumb, you'll pick when the flavor is best and the highest
level of medicinal quality is available in the plants.
If you are harvesting leaves, peak time in the season is just
before the plant flowers. That's because it takes a lot more energy
to put out flowers than leaves and the energy of the plant is
thus at its highest at that time of the year. When harvesting
leaves, always cut the stems rather than stripping the leaves
from the stems. Harvest only disease-free growth.
harvest throughout the season as long as plant growth permits
into the fall. Sometimes, time of the season for picking depends
on the plants. You wouldn't want to wait until the end of the
season to pick basil, catnip,
parsley, or oregano.
Why then you'd be eating Italian for a month straight and the
cats would be jumping out of their skins. No, these herbs and
others like chives, mints,
sweet marjoram, sage,
and thyme should be snipped as soon
as they're established and are strong enough to continue growing
vigorously. Be sure to trim off the flowers of basil as they appear
to keep the plants from being flavorful and productive. At the
end of the season and since it is an annual, harvest the entire
plant before the first frost or a little before because basil
really hates cold below 55°F.
and dill are a different story. They
bolt quickly or go to flower and seed before you've overdone the
salsa and chips and that can be a real disappointment. I stagger
my plantings of these herbs so I'll have a constant supply throughout
the season. They need to be picked as soon as they are 6 to 10
inches tall. Be sure not to snip the main stem of dill plants
or they will stop growing. Just snip dill off the sides of the
my Thai dishes, I let lemongrass
form 4 to 6 bulbous stems before I harvest it. I snip the coarse
leaves anytime. My alpine strawberries
are no let down for special desserts. I love them because they
bear fruit all season long. When the fruit is ripe and ready for
harvest, I know the leaves are ready to pick, too.
is pretty woody, so when I want the stems to branch to make the
plants bushier, I just snip there! Then I strip the leaves from
the snipped stem and add them to my marinade
for grilled lambchops. The same holds true for my scented
geranium plants. I don't like them leggy, so I cut them back
after each fifth or sixth node or
growth area between leaves to keep them bushy. Then I use the
leaves for tea or I dry them for potpourri.
Speaking of potpourri, lavender is
one of my favorites for making into sachets.
I snip the flower stems before they open and the leaves anytime.
John's wort comes into flower the last week of June. I wait
until the flowers are fully open to use in my infused
oils. Later, in the late fall, I cut the entire plant to within
2 inches of the ground to use in tea
or make tinctures out of the
leaves. Some other perennial herbs like chives, oregano, and mints
can be treated this way also in the late fall, but tarragon,
thyme, and all the sages wouldn't survive the winter if I touched
them in the late fall. They would just be stimulated to grow and
then they wouldn't be hardened off in time for the big freeze.
The best time for the final harvest of perennials should be no
later than 1½ months before frost. If you are harvesting for seed,
cut the stalks before seed begins to scatter.
harvest can be dried, frozen, or added to a preserving medium
such as vinegar, butter, and oil.