One of the benefits of growing an herb garden is that you can harvest and dry your own herbs. In order to maximize the volatile oils that give herbs their flavor, harvest them when the day is cool and the oils are concentrated. Leafy herbs like basil and thyme should be harvested just before they bloom. Once they bloom, herbs often become bitter. Flowering herbs like chamomile should be collected when the flowers are in full bloom.
Clip leafy herbs—scissors work well—halfway down the stem so you can get a second growth if your growing season allows it. For flowering herbs, cut the stalk just below the bloom. Rinse the herbs with cool water and gently shake them to remove the excess.
Tie the herbs into small bundles, binding the stems with string. Don’t make these bundles too dense, as good air circulation is necessary to dry the herbs and prevent mold. Hang the bundles upside down so the oils can drain down into the leaves. Keep them indoors in a cool, dark place, as sunlight will discolor the herbs and dissipate the oil.
Once dry, strip the leaves off the stems and store them in metal, ceramic, or colored glass containers. Then settle down with a cup of your own chamomile tea!
To save herb seeds, allow the herb to flower and wait for the seeds to fill out and begin to dry before picking the seed head. Hang them to dry well before storing.
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