Around this time you should have a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Briscoe White, owner and grower at The Growers Exchange, offers tips for storing, drying and preserving your fresh summer herb bounty.
When to Harvest:
For the best flavor, harvest herbs in early morning, as they produce flavorful natural oils at night without the stress of the sun. Throughout the day the plants lose some potency as some of the oils evaporate in the heat.
Harvest leafy greens like Parsley before it goes to flower in early summer for best flavor for drying and preserving for winter
If harvesting woody perennials or evergreens, like Rosemary, you can harvest as you like throughout the growing season.
How to harvest:
Make sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruners for a clean, healthy cut. Dirty or dull tools may mash the plant and leave disease, infecting the rest of the plant.
When making a cut, choose desired amount to be harvested and make a clean cut right above the closest node on the stem. Nodes are where the next set of leaves will branch off of the stem, and all plants have them. This is to ensure the plant has a strong point to heal from where you have trimmed and harvested.
Make sure to harvest evenly from all over the plant to keep a balanced shape.
For mature perennial herb plants, do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at a time, to allow the plant to recover. For mature annuals, you can usually harvest up to 50% without harming the plant.
When harvesting annuals throughout the growing season, leave at least 4" of active ground growth to ensure the plant will continue to grow and allow for another harvest before the end of summer.
Storing Dried Herbs
Chopped herbs: store in fridge covered with damp paper towel Lasts up to 3 days.
Best for: Basil, Mint, Chives
Whole herbs: Place a damp paper towel around end of stems, place in ziplock bag or air tight container.
Lasts up to a week.
Best for: Basil, Chives, Parsley, Tarragon
Herb Butters: Soften butter and add chopped herbs. Store in refrigerator for 1 week or in freezer for 3 months.
Ice Cube Trays: Chop finely and pack into trays. Add water to just cover them and freeze. Good for up to 6 months.
Best with: dill, chervil, cilantro, onions, tarragon, parsley, basil, chives
Herbs will lose flavor after 6 months as oils dissipate. Make sure completely dry when beginning drying process to avoid mold. Avoid mixing herbs in bundles when drying, as they may have varied drying times.
Flat Drying: Wash and pat dry, single leaves or sprigs. Lay on cookie sheet or cheesecloth, without allowing them to touch. Lay flat in dark, dry room for 2 weeks. Once slightly faded and brittle, can be stored in air tight jars for up to 6 mos.
Hanging Herbs to Dry: Wash and pat dry. Bundle herbs into small bunches. Bind stems with string or a rubber band. Hang to dry in a cool, dark place. Allow to dry for 2 weeks, then store in air tight jars for up to 6 months.