Harvesting and Preserving Herbs: Tips from Town & Country Nursery

As the golden hues of October grace our gardens, it’s time to harvest and preserve the aromatic wonders that have seasoned our dishes and soothed our senses all summer. The key to enjoying the flavors and fragrances of your favorite herbs throughout the colder months is timely harvesting and proper preservation. Town & Country Nursery offers expert advice on making the most of your herb garden as autumn descends.

Harvesting Tips:

  1. Time it Right: Early morning, after the dew has evaporated but before the sun grows hot, is the ideal time to harvest herbs. This is when they contain the maximum amount of essential oils.
  2. Use Sharp Tools: Clean, sharp scissors or pruners ensure a clean cut without bruising the herbs.
  3. Leave Some Behind: Don’t strip the plant entirely. Always leave about two-thirds of the plant to allow it to recover and grow.
  4. Handle with Care: Herbs are delicate. Handle them gently to avoid bruising and loss of essential oils.

Herbs to Harvest in October:

While many tender herbs might have passed their prime by October, there are several that continue to thrive and are perfect for harvesting this month:

  1. Rosemary: This evergreen herb is hardy and can often be harvested well into autumn.
  2. Sage: Another woody perennial, sage’s robust leaves can withstand cooler temperatures.
  3. Thyme: This low-growing herb remains resilient in cooler months, offering its aromatic leaves.
  4. Parsley: A biennial, parsley often persists late into the year and can be harvested until the first hard frost.
  5. Chives: They may start to look a bit ragged in October, but the bulbs and slender leaves are still packed with flavor.

Preservation Methods:

  1. Drying: This is perhaps the most common method of preserving herbs. Spread the herbs in a single layer on a tray and place them in a warm, dry place, away from direct sunlight. You can also bundle herbs and hang them upside-down in a dry, airy location. Once fully dried, store in airtight containers.
  2. Freezing: For herbs like chives and parsley, which lose their flavor when dried, freezing is a great option. Chop the herbs and pack them into ice cube trays with a bit of water. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags for longer storage.
  3. Infused Oils: Herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage can be preserved by creating herb-infused oils. Place the herbs in a jar and cover with a carrier oil like olive or almond. Seal and store in a cool, dark place.
  4. Salt or Sugar Preservation: Layer herbs with salt or sugar in a jar. This method is especially good for rosemary and thyme. The salt or sugar will draw out moisture, preserving the herbs and infusing the salt or sugar with flavor.
  5. Vinegar Infusion: Create herb-infused vinegars by placing herbs in a jar and covering with vinegar. Seal and store in a cool, dark place. This works well with sage.

In conclusion, October needn’t be a sad farewell to the herbal wonders of your garden. With a little effort and the tips from Town & Country Nursery, you can savor the flavors and fragrances of your favorite herbs all year round. Enjoy your autumn harvest!