There’s almost nothing more satisfying than snipping off fresh herbs from your home-grown plant. But if you’re new to the harvest, it can be a little intimidating. That’s why we’ve asked our Grow Pros for a step-by-step guide on how to harvest herbs. It includes everything you need to know — from snipping to encouraging fresh growth.
The important thing is to know how much you can take without harming your plant.Lula Weller, Grow Pro Manager
How to Harvest Herbs
Harvesting herbs is easy! Simply cut at the stem with mincing scissors or pinch with your fingers to remove the leaves.
What You Need to Know
The important thing is to know how much you can take without harming your plant. If your herb is newly planted, let it get settled before harvesting too many leaves. On a well-established plant, you can be more liberal with your harvest.
How to Encourage New Growth
Once your herb is established, harvesting herbs encourages your plant to keep growing and branching out.
Here’s the science behind it: Plants have something called apical dominance. This means that plants are inclined to grow more on the tip of the shoot than on the lateral buds. Thanks to a hormone called auxin, growth is inhibited on lower buds and encouraged on the main stem. Once you cut off the top, auxins are temporarily reduced and the lateral buds are allowed to grow!
So if you have leggy looking basil, cut the top off. This encourages the plant to branch out and gives you more vegetative growth — A.K.A. more basil.
How to Harvest Herb Flowers
As with most living things, the plant’s main goal is to reproduce. Plants do this by flowering and making seeds. So when you see flowers on your herb, this is biologically a good thing. Take advantage of the flowers — decorate a cocktail with herb flowers!
Once the flower withers, be sure to cut the flower off. This tells the plant it’s not done growing and encourages a longer life. When the flowers are dry, give it a thrash on your hand and harvest the seeds!
Remember that with herbs like basil, letting the plant go to flower can have an impact on the taste of your herb.
What To Do With Your Fresh Harvest
Now that you know how to harvest herbs, the floor is yours. It’s time to channel your inner chef, decorator, or mixologist. Use your harvest fresh in home-cooked meals, refreshing salads, or your favorite cocktail. If you have too many herbs to save fresh, dry them and save for later use.
You can dry herbs in several ways. If you have a dehydrator, place the leaves on the shelves and turn it on for 12-20 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, place your herbs on a plate and set it in an area with bright light like full sun for several days (a dry climate helps!). Alternatively, put them on a baking sheet and allow to dry in low heat over (100°F) for several hours, checking on them regularly.
Dried herbs are perfect for seasoning, homemade potpourri, and thoughtful gifts, and they work with every type of herb!
Now that you know how to harvest herbs, get growing! Trust us, you’ll be thrilled with your fresh home harvest.