Whatever the scope, there are a few simple guidelines for harvesting and using your bounty to promote good health and mental tranquility:
- Herbs can be used throughout the growing season although some varieties only flower once in the growing cycle so you have to work around that time. Herbs are in their peak before they flower, after the herb plant flowers their flavor becomes less pronounced and even can become rank tasting in the case of herbs like mint.
- Many herb flowers are gorgeous additions to salads or wonderful garnish for other dishes. Harvest these flowers just before they are in full bloom and never treated with poisonous fertilizers. Some lovely edible flowers include chives, violets, garlic, marigolds, rosemary, thyme, lavender, fennel, bee balm, roses and borage.
- Herb flowers can also be sugared to garnish desserts and cakes. This process is a simple as washing and gently patting the blooms dry. Use a small pastry brush and coat the flowers lightly with beaten egg white. Then you simply spoon regular granulated sugar all over the flower making sure to completely cover the flowers and leaves. Shake off the excess sugar and let the herb flower dry. These decorations have a lovely effect, almost shimmering.
- With most herbs the more you prune and snip the healthier the plant will be. Early, frequent harvesting can encourage lush healthy growth. Try to snip from all over the entire plant and take whole stems rather than just simply stripping the leaves. Always take stems that are clean, pest free and arenít browning or mottled.
- The best time to harvest herbs is before the sun has dried the dew and the heat has dissipated the essential oils, around mid morning. If you donít need the herb until later in the day still snip off the stems in the morning and store in a glass of water out of direct sunlight.
- If you cannot use all your herbs during the growing season then drying or freezing is a viable option to ensure you have a supply of flavorings year round. It is prudent to choose your method carefully because some herbs do not dry well and lose color, potency and flavor when hung. So become familiar with unless you are simply looking for decorative bunches or wreaths to hang in your kitchen.