When someone asks me how to harvest herbs, I usually say: "Just snip!"
Seriously, though, there's a little more to it than that. But it's not rocket science, by any means!
With a few inexpensive tools and the easy harvesting techniques I'll show you below, your teapot will be filled with deliciousness - and your herbs will continue to thrive all season long!
Here's What You'll Need:
If you're anything like me, you'll have the urge to start snipping and sipping as soon as your herbs start growing.
The minute the first mint shoots poke up through the ground in springtime, my taste buds say: "Yeah, baby - game on! Time for some fresh mint tea."
The urge is even stronger when my stevia plants start sprouting new growth. Sweet mother of everything yummy, I'm ready to whip up a fresh batch of stevia syrup!
But ... early in the season it's super-important to remember that delayed gratification is actually a good thing.
Give your herbs a few more weeks to get a healthy growth spurt going, and you'll reap the rewards later with a much more bountiful harvest.
So ... when can you begin harvesting your tea herbs? When they're ready.
If you're wondering "what the heck does that mean?", here are some verrrrry general guidelines:
|Chamomile||when flowers are new and fully opened|
|Mint||when stems have at least 4 sets of leaves|
|Lemon Verbena||when plant is at least 8-10 inches tall and well leafed out|
|Stevia||when plant is 10+ inches tall and leaves taste super-sweet|
|Anise Hyssop||harvest leaves before flowers bloom, harvest flowers when flower spike is 2/3 opened|
|Lemongrass||when stalks are at least 1/4 inches in diameter|
|Rose Hips||when hips are bright red and still firm to touch|
|Bee Balm||when flowers are new and fully opened|
|Lavender||when blossoms are just opening|
|Lemon Balm||when plant is 6 inches tall and well leafed out|
Conventional wisdom says that wind and sun sap the essential oils (the good stuff!) from the leaves of herb plants.
For the most intense flavor, they say, it's best to harvest on a wind-free day, in the early morning, shortly after the dew has evaporated from the plant.
Well, that's an excellent plan -- if that perfect timing fits into your busy schedule. For me, it usually doesn't. So I harvest when I have time to harvest.
Interestingly, I've noticed that some of my herbs (my lemon balm and stevia, especially) are more flavorful in the early afternoon, after the sun has had a chance to warm their leaves.
Of course, who am I to quibble with the experts?! Taste test in your own garden. Snip your herbs at different times of day and see what you think.
Okay, let's "fast forward" to summer. Your herbs are well established in your garden or in their containers on your deck, patio or window ledge.
It's tea time!!!
Part of the Herb Commonly Used for Tea
Now that you know which parts of the herbs are best for your tea, let's look at the best methods for getting those parts off the plant and into your teapot!
It might be tempting to just snip the leaves off the plant. But that'll do your plant more harm than good.
Instead, cut a few healthy-looking stems first. Then remove the leaves from those stems.
I prefer to cut just above a leaf junction (the place where a set of leaves grows out of the stem). That encourages the plant to generate new growth.
To harvest the blossoms from flowering herbs:
For flowering herbs that repeat-bloom during the season (like bee balm and anise hyssop, for example), cut entire stems - just as you'd cut a bouquet of daisies, roses or any other garden flowers.
For flowering herbs that only bloom once each season (like German chamomile, for example), you can cut whole stems ... or just snip the blossoms off and let the rest of the plant die back on its own. Your choice!
No matter which herb you're harvesting, a few basic principles apply:
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