Many herbs can be harvested
throughout the year.
For leafy herbs, (parsley, chives, sorrel, etc), cut the stems about an inch above ground
level. Trim & discard any discoloured or damaged leaves.
For shrubby herbs, (rosemary, sage, thyme, etc), cut the growing tip of the plant. Do not
cut into the old, woody stems. Always make sure there is new growth visible below the cut.
Most plants will benefit from being harvested regularly. This encourages vigorous, new
growth & prolongs the supply of fresh material. It also improves the shape of the
plant, making it bushy & sturdy.
Herbs for preserving should
be harvested on a dry, sunny morning, after the dew has evaporated. To obtain maximum
flavour & nutritional content, material for preserving needs to be at its very best.
This will depend on the part of the plant that is required.
Leaves should be harvested just
before the plant flowers.
Flowers are at their best when they have just opened.
Fruit should be just ripe.
Seed is ripe when it changes from green to brown. For seeds in pods,
shake the stem. You will hear the seeds rattle when they are ripe.
Roots are at their best when the top growth of the plant has completely
died back, in autumn or winter.
Herbs for drying
should be harvested on a dry, sunny morning, after the dew has evaporated. Cut the stems
just above ground level. Trim & discard any discoloured or damaged leaves. Tie into
small bunches and hang in a dark, dry, airy place, or put them in a paper bag punched with
holes, to eliminate light and dust. When the plant is completely dry, it will become
brittle. Remove the leaves from the stems and store in airtight jars, in a dark place. To
retain maximum flavour, it is best to store the leaves whole & crush, if necessary,
just before using.
Freezing is the best
method for preserving the colour, flavour & nutritional content of herbs with soft,
lush, green leaves, (eg. chives, dill, basil, mint, tarragon). Wash the herbs, if
necessary, & shake dry. Freeze them in plastic bags, in bunches, on the
stem. There is no need to thaw before using, just add at the end of cooking.
Alternatively, chop the herbs finely, put them in ice-cube trays and top up with water.
Flowers, especially borage, can be frozen in ice-cubes for adding to drinks.
Herbs preserved in
oil or vinegar are very useful for adding flavour to many dishes.
Fill a wide-necked,
sterilised jar with fresh herb, broken into pieces with your fingers. When the jar is as
full as possible, cover with good quality olive, sunflower, safflower or almond oil,
preferably organic. Put on a tight fitting lid. Stand the jar in a warm or sunny place,
covering it with brown paper if it's in a sunny position. Shake at least once a day for 14
days. Strain and store out of direct light.
Suitable herbs - basil, garlic, fennel, lavender, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme.
Spices, chillies and orange or lemon peel can be added.
Bruise the herb and
fill a wide-necked jar. Top up with warm (not hot) wine or cider vinegar. Continue as for
Suitable herbs - bay, chervil, dill, elderflower, garlic, fennel, lavender, mint,
rosemary, tarragon, thyme. Spices, chillies and citrus rind can also be added.
Fruit vinegars are made by the same method. Roughly chop the fruit in a food processor
Suitable fruits - blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries,
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