Harvesting and storing herbs

Herbs should be harvested when the highest content of active ingredients is achieved. Time to harvest herbs, by which we use leaves, is just before flowering. When cutting leaves, leave enough leaves or buds for plants to develop new shoots. Leaves should be gathered in the morning when plants are not hot from sun yet and morning dew is already dry. Fruits and seeds should be gathered just before ripening in the morning time. Roots, rhizomes and bulbs should be gathered in the autumn when plants stop to grow and start to prepare on overwintering. 

Leaves, seeds, roots and other parts should be clean before storing. Use water for cleaning. Most commonly we store dried herb parts, but we can also freeze them or store them in vinegar and oil.

Herbs should never be dried in the sun, with the exception of seeds. Tie leaves and stems into bundles and hang them in a shady place or dry them in boxes on a table or in some other way. If they are not dry enough after few days, dry them in an electric oven at a temperature of up to 40 degrees Celsius. At a higher temperature essential oils evaporate. Crush dried herbs and store them in airtight boxes or sealed glasses. Dried herbs should be consumed within a year.

Herbs such as thyme, lemon balm, chives and basil can be frozen. Freshly harvested should be washed and dried between two patches. There are three different ways of freezing. Herbs can be cut into small pieces and put into container for making ice cubs and poured with water. Herbs can be divided into individual portions and frozen in aluminum foil in which they can be crushed before usage. A third possibility is to freeze herbs in a plastic foil or bag, crush them and store in a prechilled bowls in a freezer.

Herbs can be stored in vinegar and oil. Freshly harvested herbs should be washed and cut into small pieces. We fill jars with them and pure olive oil and wine vinegar.