Herbs as a group are relatively easy to grow, and are
especially suited for commercial organic farming. An inherent
resistance to pests and affinity for organic fertilizers are
characteristic of herbs. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides often
induce variations in the subtle flavors of herbs.
growing conditions vary with each individual herb species. Some of
the herbs — such as Lvender, Rosemary, Hyme, Bay laurel, Marjoram,
Dill, and Oregano — are native to the Mediterranean region. These
herbs grow best in soils with excellent drainage, bright sun, and
moderate temperatures. These basic guidelines need to be followed
when the herbs are grown:
A herb garden should be planned by grouping herbs
according to light, irrigation, and soil requirements. Most herbs
enjoy full sun, but a few tolerate shade. Herbs can be classified as
either annual, biennial, or perennial. Some herbs, such as borage,
anise, caraway, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, and fennel, should
be direct-seeded, because they grow easily from seed or do not
transplant well. Other herbs, such as mints, oregano, rosemary,
thyme, and tarragon, should be purchased as plants and transplanted
or propagated by cuttings to ensure production of the desired plant
(do not come true from seeds).
- Planting herbs in average garden soil with organic matter
added to improve texture and drainage.
- Choosing a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun
- Avoiding ground where water stands or runs during heavy rains.
- Compensating for poor drainage with raised beds amended with
Herbs should be harvested when the oils responsible for
flavor and aroma are at their peak. Proper timing depends on the
plant part you are harvesting and the intended use. Herbs grown for
their foliage should be harvested before they flower. While chives
are quite attractive in bloom, flowering can cause the foliage to
develop an off-flavor. Harvest herbs grown for seeds as the seed
pods change in color from green to brown to gray but before they
shatter (open). Collect herb flowers, such as borage and chamomile,
just before full flower. Harvest herb roots, such as bloodroot,
chicory, ginseng, and goldenseal, in the fall after the foliage
fades. Some general guidelines to use include:
Freezing is one of the
easiest methods to preserve herbs. The herbs are quickly rinsed in
cold water, excess water is shaken off, and then chopped coarsely.
The pinches of herbs are placed in water-filled ice cube trays and
frozen. These are then transferred to plastic bags or airtight
- Begin harvesting the herb when the plant has enough foliage to
maintain growth. Up to 75% of the current season's growth can be
harvested at one time.
- Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before
the heat of the day.
- Harvest herbs before flowering, otherwise, leaf production
- Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and
flavor when harvested after flower buds appear but before they
- Herb flowers harvested to dry for craft purposes should be
picked just before they are fully open.
- Annual herbs can be harvested until frost.
- Perennial herbs can be clipped until late August. Stop
harvesting about one month before the frost date. Late pruning
could encourage tender growth that cannot harden-off before
- Harvest tarragon or lavender flowers in early summer and then
shear the plants to half their height to encourage a second
flowering period in the fall. Herbs acquire their fragrance and
flavor from oils that evaporate into the air when the leaves are
crushed. Ideally, you should use fresh herbs for cooking, but it
is possible to retain some quality for later use. There are
several methods to preserve herbs.
Drying is the traditional method of herb
preservation. The herbs are rinsed off dust and dirt from the
foliage, the excess water is shaken off, and the herbs are spread
out to dry on paper towels or dishcloths until all surface moisture
has evaporated. Then, the stems are tied into small bundles with
twine or string and hung them upside down in a warm, dry, airy place
out of the sun.
UV rays from the sun and moisture from dew
and frost can discolor and severely reduce the quality of many
herbs. Thus, it is best to dry herbs indoors. Herbs can be dried in
a barn, shed, or (least desirable) under the cover of a porch. Sage,
thyme, summer savory, dill, and parsley are easy to dry. Basil,
tarragon, and mints may mold and discolor if not dried quickly.
To air dry herbs with seeds, tie the herbs in small bundles
and suspend inside a paper bag with holes punched in the sides.
Suspend the bag in a dark area with good air circulation. Collect
the seeds when they are dry, and store in rigid light-proof
Herbs are sufficiently dry when they are brittle
and crumble easily. When the leaves are dry, separate them from
their stems and package the leaves in rigid containers with tight
fitting lids. Glass or hard plastic are best, although heavy-duty
zip-lock plastic bags can be used. To preserve full flavor, avoid
crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them. Store dried
herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, moisture, and heat.
Many herbs can be keep for a year if stored properly.