Probably the best part of having your own container garden full of fresh herbs is harvesting and using the flowers, leaves and seeds for your favorite recipes and crafts. Harvesting and preserving herbs can be simple if you know what types of plants you have, how they grow and when the best time is to harvest them. Some herbs can be continually harvested throughout the growing season whereas others should be tended and harvested once they’ve reached a certain stage of maturity.
You can grow many varieties of herbs, depending on what you want to use them for and how much space and time you have. Some commonly grown herbs that you can try out include sage, basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, chives and stevia. Let’s get started by discussing the basics of harvesting your herbs.
Knowing how your herbs grow will determine how you should harvest them.
- Basil and rosemary, for example, are regularly used for their fresh leaves and respond well to frequent trimming.
- Whereas plants like chives and parsley should be clipped near the ground and harvested several times a season.
The flavor of herbs can change as it matures, so be aware of what plants you want to flower and which ones should have the flowers removed to keep the best parts for harvesting. When growing herbs for their leaves, like oregano, it is best to cut them back often to prevent flowering and to promote a bushier habit. Each herb has its own special characteristics and it is best to understand its habits/tendencies to get the most out of it.
Once you have harvested your herbs, you have two options:
1. Use it now for fresh and pungent flavor in the meal you are preparing.
2. Preserve it for later use.
Preserving herbs is a great idea if you can’t grow your plants year-round or want to build up a reserve of homegrown herbs. There are several methods for preserving your herbs and it basically comes down to what you have and what your preference is. Freezing or drying herbs are tried and true methods but don’t forget about infusing oil and vinegar too.
- Freezing your herbs using an airtight seal, like a Ziploc bag, is quick and simple.
- Blending herbs with oil to create a paste and then freezing it is a good idea too. When you need a little flavor for a soup or casserole, simply cut a piece of the frozen paste and toss it in!
- Another fun way to freeze your herbs is by using water and ice cube trays. Simply chop up your herbs, like maybe some peppermint, add it to the tray with some water and freeze. Plop the cubes in your favorite tea for fun, fancy and flavorful garnish!
Preserving the flavor of your harvested herbs can also be done simply by drying them.
- Use drying racks to dry your herbs evenly.
- Many herbs can be dried in bunches too. Just tie them into a small bunch and hang them upside down in a warm, dry area.
- If you are in a hurry, some people use microwaves to make quick work of drying small portions of their harvested herbs. Lay a single layer of leaves between paper towels and microwave until brittle, which is usually after a few minutes.
- You can also use a conventional oven or dehydrator. Once your herbs are dry, place them in an airtight container and store them in a dry location.
Harvesting and preserving the herbs you grow is enjoyable and stress-free, as any gardening experience should be. Knowing your plants and having an arsenal of recipes that call for fresh or dried herbs is all you need to be successful. Check out some of our favorite recipes that use herbs.