My favorite time of year is autumn, when the temperatures here in Fort Worth cool to civilized levels and I can enjoy harvesting my herbs. Having grown and enjoyed herbs in three states and four or five growing zones, I’ve collected a few ideas about when and how to harvest. Here’s a few you might find useful.
- Before you start clipping, have some idea where you plan to put the herbs. If you plan to hang them, bring out the clothes drying racks or clear some space in the rafters of the garage. Another trick is to hang them from a wire hanger. You can then hang it over a pole.
- Unless you have lots of space in a barn or shed, a large quantity herbs hanging around are likely to get in your way and be vaguely annoying to family members (I’m speaking from experience here). In fact, my study of herb books of previous centuries tells me that most housewives would lay them flat instead.
- Large leafed herbs dry fastest if the leaves are removed from the stem. Remember the stem’s mission in life is to transfer sap to the leaves which it will do as long as it can. With a pair of household scissors clip leaves into a wide bowl or basket. Then stir the leaves daily until they are dry and crackly.
- Scout for flat surfaces. The top of the washer, dryer, and fridge are favorites of mine. I often use the dining table for short-term drying or prep. Of course, I keep a waterproof barrier between the wood and my herbs.
- Brown paper bags are perfect for drying seed herbs such as dill, fennel and coriander and tiny-leafed herbs such as thyme. The paper provides air circulation but helps contain the harvest. Once the seed or leaves are dry strip them from the stems while holding them in the bag.
- Watch out for hitchhikers on leaves. If a day or so after you harvest, you find small black granules in the bowl or basket then you have a caterpillar dining on the leaves and leaving its calling card. Look for the culprit and send it on its way.