How to Harvest Annual and Perennial Herbs

herbs in the kitchen

Harvesting Herbs is Simple and Enjoyable

So you've been growing herbs and now it's time for a big, end-of-summer harvest. You watched our video where Tricia shows you how to harvest and preserve herbs -- and she says that you should use different techniques for annual and perennial herbs.

Wait a minute -- which herbs are annuals and which are perennials?

They all grow in the summer. We'll give you a quick guide to which herbs are annual and which are perennial. Some herbs are easy to figure out. An evergreen like rosemary, that lives on through winter snows and increases in size over the years is a perennial. Cilantro has delicate leaves and that's a tip-off that it's an annual.

Within perennials there are two kinds -- tough-customer hardy perennials like lavender that make it through a USDA zone 7 winter, and the tender perennials that make it through a "rough" Santa Barbara winter (they'll only be perennial for you in zones 9 - 11). By the way, the USDA recently relabeled many of the zones, so your own USDA zone might have a new number. Find out your current number here.

The odds are that if you have herbs in your garden you have both annuals and perennials. Coming up are lists of both kinds of herbs, along with the techniques for harvesting and preserving them. dill flowers

Harvesting annual herbs

Do you grow any of these popular, annual herbs? Basil,Borage, Calendula, Chamomile, Cilantro, Dill-Bouquet, Fennel-Florence, Stevia (perennial grown as an annual), Tarragon (perennial grown as an annual) Biennials that can be grown and harvested as annuals Dill- Mammoth or parsley.

Harvest time for annuals

Throughout the summer you can typically harvest quite a bit of an annual herb plant. A good rule of thumb is to leave four to six inches of plant for later growth.

Preserving annual herbs

Freezing retains the best flavor for: parsley, cilantro, chervil, sweet cicely, chives, tarragon, dill, and fennel. perennial mint

Harvesting perennial herbs

Are these perennial herbs in your garden? Catnip, Chives, Fennel-Bronze, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Harvest time for perennial herbs

Perennial herbs should usually be harvested throughout the summer until two months before the first frost of fall. Harvest about one third of the current season's growth, for some it is just the growing tips. You don't want to harvest them too late into the season because the plant will produce tender growth that won't have time to harden off before the frost comes.

Preserving perennial herbs

Drying retains the best flavor for: mint, thyme, lavender, oregano, marjoram, sage, rosemary, savory, lovage, lemon verbena, and lemon balm. Tricia uses an Excalibur dehydrator, and also shows you how to bundle and hang herbs to dry. herb scissors green onions

Process your herb harvest quickly

Snip the herbs you need quickly, neatly, and evenly with herb scissors. The unusual blade design features a set of five, sharp 3" stainless steel blades that allow you to cut, chop or mince herbs directly into a pan or over a plate for garnishing. The large plastic handles have a soft silicone lining for a comfortable grip. At a generous 7 1/2" long overall, the scissors are dishwasher safe and come with a blade cleaner/storage case.

Stock up on herb seeds for great gifts, any time of the year
gourmet flavors herb gift seed tin

A handful of herb seed packs is a good gift for gardeners or cooks, any time of year, and one seed pack is a fun stocking stuffer. Want something with more splash? Our Gourmet Flavors Gift Seed Tin has 10 packs of organic herbs, and any of them can be direct sown in the soil (perfect for new gardeners with a fear of seed trays). For more information about growing, harvesting, preserving, and using herbs, try some of our specially selected books.

Longtime favorites are the Storey Country Wisdom series booklets for just $3.99. They go deep on a narrow topic, and Storey offers lots of herbal help: brew a cuppa with advice from 15 Herbs for Tea; plant with Growing Herbs in Containers; learn about Herbal Teas for Lifelong Health; leave the tea and go with Healing Herbal Wines, Vinegars & Syrups; choose, grow, and use 10 Essential Herbs for Lifelong Health; or try fruits, vegetables and herbs as Natural & Herbal Family Remedies.

Enjoy the flavors of your annual and perennial herbs, year round, when you harvest and preserve them!

Learn more about planting herbs and propagating herbs in water in our Resource Center.

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