Harvesting Herbs For Cooking

Question:

How do I harvest these herbs: mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, dill and chives? I do not know if I should just tear off leaves or cut off the stalks/stems. I want the basil etc for cooking but I want the plant to keep producing. They are on my patio in pots. Thanks ever so much.

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Pattie from Seattle, WA

Answer:

Hi Pattie,

Here are some tips for harvesting your herbs:

  • The best time of the day to harvest herbs is in the early morning on a dry day (daybreak is ideal) before the sun heats up the volatile oils.

  • Leaves and stems (basil, parsley, rosemary, dill, and chives) are at their most fragrant and contain the highest amount of volatile oils before any of the flowers have opened.

  • Gather only the best-shaped, greenest leaves and stems. Discard any that are withered or damaged by insects.

  • Use a sharp knife or scissors to remove the leaves, stems, seed heads, and flowers. Pulling and tearing may cause damage to the plants, which can delay new growth or create wounds where insects and diseases can enter.

  • Flowers (chives) should be harvested as soon as they have fully opened.

  • Seeds (dill) are best captured as soon as they are ripe.

  • For single-stemmed herbs like basil, harvesting the center tip will encourage bushier growth. For mint, you can use the tops and the flower buds. Take the outside leaves and stems from your parsley plant and leave the center intact. Harvest the leaves and flowers of chives as you need them.

  • Are you growing your herbs like annuals? If so, never harvest more than the top half of the plant at one time and you'll be able to get several harvests each season.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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July 21, 20080 found this helpful

I recommend a great book called the Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey. It is about growing edibles attractively in containers. All herbs, fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers are discussed in detail from planting to harvesting with recipes. I love this book and refer to it all the time. I just harvested some basil today for my lunch pizza!

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July 21, 20080 found this helpful

Simply harvest by pruning about a third to a half of the leaves/stalks which will also spawn thicker new growth. If the herbs are perennials make sure to bring them indoors during the winter and keep in a sunny location, water accordlingly and continue to harvest.

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July 21, 20080 found this helpful

My favorite thing is basil wraps, take a leaf of basil, a sliver of ham, a sliver of cheese, wrap it up and use toothpick to tie together. Yummy. I also use fresh mint in my lemonade everyday. I make reg lemonade and add a handfull of freshly washed mint leaves to the gallon.

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July 22, 20080 found this helpful

I harvest the dill by either taking the weed (leaves) off of several plants leaving the stalk and some leaves intact or the seed head by breaking it off from the stalk after it begins to form the seed. I harvest basil by snipping the amount needed for that day before flowers start to form. With parsley I take just the stalks of leaves needed prefably from the outside of the plant. Chives I snip as much as needed before the flowers form. I just planted rosemary the other day so I'm not quite sure about that one yet. Hope this helps.

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July 22, 20080 found this helpful

I harvest the dill by either taking the weed (leaves) off of several plants leaving the stalk and some leaves intact or the seed head by breaking it off from the stalk after it begins to form the seed. I harvest basil by snipping the amount needed for that day before flowers start to form. With parsley I take just the stalks of leaves needed prefably from the outside of the plant. Chives I snip as much as needed before the flowers form. Mint I just cut a few stalks. I try and do all of my herb harvesting in the morning before the sun gets to hot but the dew has dried. I just planted rosemary the other day so I'm not quite sure about that one yet. Hope this helps.

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July 22, 20080 found this helpful

You can even start new basil plants by cutting off the top leaves with a bit of stem, and placing the stem in water. It will develop roots and then you can plant it.

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October 10, 20080 found this helpful

I maintained my herbs in containers (had to move them this summer back to my home in MI.) I brought them in and placed them in a sunny kitchen window. Any tips on keeping them healthy through the winter indoors?

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