Herbs are tremendously useful in so many ways. So it is late summer now, your herb garden has been planted, watered, weeded, and you’ve watched the plants grow and thrive. Now it’s time to learn how to use those wonderful herbs and it requires only a little bit of work. The first step in using the results of your garden is to harvest them.
Harvesting an herb does not mean removing the entire plant, rather cutting or rimming 2/3 to 3/4 of the plants height. An herb’s essential oils can be dispersed by the wind and the heat, and on extremely wet days, fewer oils are produced by the plants. The best time to harvest your herbs is during mid to late summer, on a calm and dry morning. Harvest them right before the flowers open in the morning and just after the dew has dried from the leaves. Yes i did say 2/3 to 3/4 they will grow back, I promise and they will be happier if you cut them often instead of waiting until October.
Using fresh herbs right out of your garden is a delight. Make sure to clean the herbs before using them fresh in recipes. To clean fresh herbs, fill a bowl with cool water and place the herbs in the bowl. For a larger quantity, use the cleaned kitchen sink. Add about two tablespoons of salt to the water. Any insects present on the herbs will be driven away by the salt in the water, without damaging the plant. Rinse carefully and allow them to air dry. You can speed up this drying by placing the herbs in a salad spinner.
Of course, herbs don’t have to be used at the time they are picked. They can be preserved for later use in three ways by: drying, freezing, or preserving them in salt, butter or vinegar.
I have posted ways to make and use butters and vinegar before, so I will let you look at those posts:
I will talk about some other drying methods in the coming weeks as well, but I thought I would start with the easiest -- air drying. And I have some great photos from this year’s harvesting. This is a very simple way to preserve herbs. It works best with sturdy herbs like sage, lavender, thyme, savory, mints, rosemary and oregano.
- Remove leaves from the bottom of the stem, and bunch four to six stems together loosely. Bundle with a rubber band or string and hang them, upside down, out of direct sunlight for two to three weeks.
- Spread the herbs out on a loosely on a window screen or woven basket tray and dry them flat.
- Put herbs into brown paper bags and loosely tie or fold over the top. This is especially good for thyme and chives.
|fresh savory and sage ready to be hung|
|Quick and easy drying rack using paper tube wire hangers|
|Sage perfectly dry|
|rubbed sage ready for bottling|