What would homemade dishes be without fresh herbs to liven them up? Basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint – to name but a few, all have a distinctive flavour, adding unique flavour dimensions to your favourite meals. If you like cooking food that packs a punch, read this article to learn how to harvest herbs like a pro. And keep reading on for herb preservation tips for long-term use. (Use Wonder to care for your herb garden.)
How to harvest herbs like a pro
The best time to harvest herbs is when their oil production peaks. You will be able to tell this by the stronger aroma, indicating that the herbs have reached their maximum in terms of flavour. Ideally, you should harvest your herbs early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Harvesting them is easy – all you have to do is pinch off the section you want with your fingers. Or you can use a pair of secateurs for larger plants. Here’s how to harvest herbs, depending on whether you are harvesting the leaves, seeds, flowers, or roots:
If you are harvesting herbs for their foliage, like chives, you’ll want to do so before any flowers form, because once flowers begin to sprout up, fewer leaves are produced. Don’t cut back too much of the plant though! Only 75% of the growth should be harvested per season, as an estimate, so you can encourage many more harvests in the future.
Herbs used for their seeds, like anise, should be harvested when their pods change colour from green and brown to grey. The seed pods can be found on the flower heads, so rather pick the flowers before removing them. And be sure to collect the seeds before the pods open to preserve their freshness.
When harvesting herb flowers, like chamomile, make sure you do so before they are in full bloom. When the flower is fully open, its oil content diminishes, and so does its flavour. If you harvested early-summer herbs like lavender and tarragon, cut the plants back to half their height. You can then look forward to a second flowering in autumn!
Do you grow herbs for their roots? If so, harvest them only once their foliage has faded. Herb roots like that of the chicory plant are best harvested in autumn. You will need to remove the entire herb plant from the soil to harvest the roots, so best you have your secateurs on standby.
3 ways to preserve herbs for long-term use:
1. Air drying
Air drying herbs involves the use of a paper bag. First, gently wash your freshly harvested herbs, allowing them to dry on a paper towel. Once completely dry, tie the herbs in a loose bunch and place them in a paper bag with the stems sticking out at the top. Punch some holes in the bag and hang the herbs somewhere in your home that is warm, well-ventilated and out of direct sunlight. Your garage would probably do the trick. After about a month, your herbs should be nice and dry. And ready for use!
2. Heat drying
Another option for preserving your herbs is to dry them using heat. For example, you can place your herbs on a tray in the oven, and bake at a low setting for a few hours to dry them out. You don’t want to make your oven too hot, as the herbs will lose a lot of their flavour. You can also use a dehydrating oven for a similar process, or a microwave.
A quick and easy method for preserving your herbs is freezing them. Once you’ve picked and washed your herbs, simply pinch them into bits and suspend them in ice cube trays filled with water. You can then leave them in the freezer for months to come, and pull out a tray to defrost when you want to cook with the herbs.
It’s thyme to plant something new
Now you know how to harvest herbs and preserve them too. All that’s left to do is plant your favourite varieties and care for them with Wonder. Discover our plant nutrition range online.