Harvesting Summer Herbs

Summer Basil

Well, it’s hot & humid now in mid-July…just like every summer. My herbs are looking a bit overgrown and ragged due to the heat and summer rains and I’m guessing yours may be too. So what can an herb gardener do?

I recommend harvesting as much as you can this time of year with out killing off the plant. I trim off about 1/3 of the plant, hopefully, just before it starts to flower but if it’s already flowering like most BASILS, well, just do it anyway. You should be getting a second crop shortly as fast as everything is growing!

What other herbs to harvest beside basil? OREGANO, SAGES including PINEAPPLE SAGE..what?…you don’t have Pineapple Sage?? You’re missing a beautiful thing! …pineapple-flavored leaves for fruit salads, beautiful fire-cracker red tubular flowers that taste like honeysuckle (and the hummingbirds and butterflies love them too!). MINTS of all kinds need trimming back to keep them in bounds, thin out the ROSEMARY a bit to promote air circulation in the plant (helps keep the fungus away), GARLIC CHIVES can always use a trim…or just take part of the plant each time if you don’t need a lot for a recipe…cut them about an inch from the surface of the ground…they’ll be right back up in no time.

Herb Harvest

SO now you’ve harvested them, what’s next? Well, go ahead and use what you can fresh tonight for dinner! If you can’t use them all, tie the stems together in small bunches and put them in glasses of water on the counter for a couple of days and use as you need them. Still have more left? Now it’s time to dry them. Most herbs air-dry well…just turn those bunches upside down and hang them in a dark place (cabinet, closet…out of the way), wait for 4 or 5 days and check to see if they’re crispy-dry. Anything less than that gets you moldy herbs and you’ll just be throwing them out.

An easy way to quick-dry the herbs is to lay the branches or leaves out on paper towels on baking sheets and put the sheets in your car out in the sun for a day…a cheap solar dryer that leaves your car smelling great! Again, make sure they are crispy-dry before you go on to the next step…stripping the leaves off the stems. The easiest way to do that is to hold the top of the branch and gently run your fingers DOWN the stem. They should come right off. At that point, you are ready to store your own custom dried herbs for up to a year in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Then you can use them dry when you are in a hurry or give them as pretty, useful gifts when the holidays roll around.

If, however, your plants have not survived the heat, humidity & rain…don’t despair! Just replant for a fall crop.

One thought on “Harvesting Summer Herbs

  1. Fransene

    Thanks, Debbie, for these great tips! I love the ideas of growing our own herbs, but have not yet learned when and how to keep them pruned and harvested here in central FL. I’m not getting very efficient use of them yet, and I have a goal of raising all or most of the herbs our family needs. Looks I have a lot of homework ahead of me.

    BTW it appears that the peppermint you gave me is surviving! Now I need to keep it alive and thriving! I had lots of spearmint growing in a container and after our move to town I totally neglected it. Recently I thought it died off, but I see new shoots coming back. I also had cilantro really going to town and I was harvesting the lower branches as it grew, but it suddenly perished. Maybe it needed to be transplanted into a larger pot. I can’t wait to get settled at our new place so I can have more permanent arrangements for these little plants. Our malabar spinach is doing much better since we planted it in a larger pot, but I’m not sure how often to harvest and how much to cut off at once. So much to learn…

    Any resources you recommend that would tell me when to do what to various herbs as they grow here in central FL (kind of like you outlined in this post to do in July)?

    Thanks again for your input!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>