Herbs & Spices – Harvesting & Storing

Herbs & Spices - Harvesting & Storage

Welcome back all! Today we are going to discuss how to harvest your spices and herbs as well as how to dry it and store it!

In my previous post I discussed how you can prepare your soil to get the maximum yield out of your crop. There are some amazing herbs and spices out there that doesn’t only add flavor to your food but is also medicinal. Let’s jump right in!

Preparing Herbs & Spice. Photo by babawawa

Harvesting – Pruning for the Next Crop

If you live in an accommodating climate, you’d definitely like to keep your crop fresh and ready for the next harvest. Why plant new seeds if you can skip a few steps and harvest another yield!

Some key factors to take into consideration when harvesting is to keep your crop healthy and allow it to recover to get the most yield out of it. Here are some steps you can take to ensure this.

Depending on the herb or spice you wish to grow, you’ll have to choose whether it are the seed, flower or leaf you want to harvest. When harvesting leaves, it is best to prune at the base of the leave and not to leave the stem exposed. But when harvesting stems, it is best to cut at the base of the stem; just above the soil.

Another sustainable gardening method is to take your stem cuttings and plant them to regrow. You’ll save time and money this way. Also, stop harvesting herbs and spices well before the cold weather settles in. This allows your plants to survive winter by recuperating and sustain themselves for the cold season.

Next I will discuss how to harvest the herbs I spoke of in my first post.

If you click the link in the title, you can learn more about wildcrafting; a sustainable method of natural foraging. 🙂

Which Parts of Herbs & Spices can be Harvested?

Here, I will give you a list of each herb and spice as well as which parts of it can be harvested. The seeds of spice are the main component to harvest in the majority of spices, but will list the exemptions as well here.

Herbs

  • Aloe – Cut the leaf at the base and extract the gel part of the leaf.
  • Catnip – Both the leaves and flowers can be harvested.
  • Ginseng – The root contains its nutrients.
  • Lavender – Stems cut at the base close to post bloom phase.
  • Lemon Grass – The leaf as well as the stalk can be harvested.
  • Milk Thistle – The stalk, flower heads and seeds can be harvested.
  • Peppermint – Young leaves contain the most nutrients, but non-flowering stalks can also be harvested.
  • Rosemary – Cut the stem close to the base of the stalk.
  • Sage – The stem or leaves can be harvested.
  • Stinging Nettle – Gather the stalks to strip the leaves. Wear protective gloves. 

Spices

  • Cinnamon – The spice is derived from the bark of the cinnamon tree.
  • Citrus Zest – The grated peels of citrus fruit is used to capture its flavor.
  • Horseradish – The dug up root is harvested to prepare for storage.
  • Shallots – The bulb is dug up for harvest.
  • Saffron – This is unique. The stigma (red-orange part) of the flower is harvested. Hence, it being very expensive.

Herbs & Spices - Harvesting & Storage. Dried Cinnamon Bark. Photo by Hans

Cleaning Herbs & Spices – Leave only the Good Behind

Here I will discuss how to properly clean and prepare your harvest to leave only the great and healthy taste behind.

Step 1

Take a bowl and add your herbs or your spices. Pour water into it until all of it is soaked. Stir and tumble your herbs or spices for a few minutes, then allow it to settle. You want all the dirt and nastiest parts to settle at the bottom of the bowl.

Step 2

After a few minutes, carefully remove the bowl’s contents and place it on a dry towel evenly. Dab a towel over the herbs or spices to absorb as much water as possible.

Roll your towel until all herbs and spices are enclosed in the towel. Wait a few minutes for all the water to be absorbed. Air dry further if necessary.

Step 3

Separate your stems and leaves if necessary for grinding if necessary. Now your herbs and spices are ready to be prepared and stored.

Preserving Herbs & Spices – Savor the Flavor

A big part applying herbs and spices to your dishes, is drying and sometimes grounding it for flavor preservation. This has been a tradition for centuries and lives on in today’s lifestyle. But there are several other methods that works just as well.

Just take note that is ideal to begin this process only after all moisture has evaporated from your crop to avoid mold.

Drying

The most common method of preserving herbs and spices is to dry them. Woody plants tend to be preserved best with this method. After this step you may grind your herbs or spices for use, but remember that whole herbs or spice have an increased shelf life than ground herbs or spice.

Freezing

The first method is to form a paste, that is a combination of oil (olive, canola etc) and chopped up herbs or spices and freezing it in wax paper or trays.

The second method is to take resealable bags, add oil and whole herbs and spice and freezing it.

Butter

Leave butter at room temperature or lightly heat it in a pot. Apply chopped up herbs or spice into it and let it settle into a tray in the fridge for later use when cooking.

Oil

Take an empty resealable bottle and add your mixture of herbs and spices to it. Fill it up with your favorite cooking oil (olive oil works best) and seal it until it reaches the flavor you desire.

Vinegar

To my astonishment, I found that you can preserve herbs and spice with vinegar. But because it has such a strong taste, consider using light to mild vinegar to counteract it. You can use the same method as discussed under oil.

Salt

This method is considered a dry storage. You simply add intermittent layers of salt and whole herbs or spice to a jar and seal it. Remove the air if possible.

Sugar

The same method applies that is used with salt preservation. The only difference is, that if you want have a sweet taste upon using it, you can replace the salt with sugar. This is ideal for treats that use lavender or mint.

FAQ – What Others are Asking

This post wouldn’t be complete without answering a few questions you may not have thought of; just to broaden your perspective. ;P

When is the Best Time to Harvest Herbs?

Herbs and spice species have different harvest times but follow these instructions for the basic procedure. Allow your crop to grow to a decent size and only trim a third of the crop to allow the plant to recover. Also, do no prune prior to the cold season if the crop is perennial.

Can Herbs be Dried in a Dehydrator?

Certainly! Because you control the environment it is dried in, you avoid mold growth as well as the long time it takes to complete the process. It is definitely an herb drying machine!

How Do You Keep Moisture Out Of Spice?

Apart from the container being sealed tight, you can take the extra precaution of keeping the cupboard it is stored in cool and dry as well.

Do Spices Need To Be Refrigerated?

Yes, in a hot climate herbs and spices tend to clump together, especially ground herbs and spices.

Thanks for Reading!

Again, thanks for reading my post. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. In my next post I will review the Excalibur Food Dehydrator. If you would like to read my previous posts, click on the links below.

HERBS & SPICES – PREPARING YOUR SOIL

HERBS & SPICES – PREPARING YOUR SOIL

 

4 Comments on “Herbs & Spices – Harvesting & Storing

  1. This is a lovely article and I must commend you for putting up this insightful article together. So many useful tips all on one page; I actually bookmarked to look further.

    These are wonderful tips on how to harvest spices and herbs. The cleaning and preservation steps are just like eye opener for me. Thanks for this enlightenment 

  2. Now, this is a nice one. Who knew I could grow some of these herbs and spices in the comfort of my own backyard and have fresh herbs and spices to add to my dishes all year round. I will be a constant reader now. I didn’t like dirtying my hands with these kind of snake scale backyard farming but after noticing that some of the store bought herbs and spices might contain chemicals or compounds which aren’t stated, I became interested in planting, harvesting and storing my own herbs and spices. This website would do me a lot of good. 

    • Thank you Vapz! You had me laughing at snake scale backyard farming. 🙂

      I wish you the best of luck in your harvest to come!

  3. Very interesting and interpretation. I use olive oil and cannabis together; another herb you should investigate.

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