Throughout the season, Sara, our herb gardener, will be sharing information about harvesting and using the many varieties of herbs we grow. Here’s her first post:
“The first herbs of the 2017 season are ready to harvest in our pick-your-own Culinary Herb Garden, located between the greenhouse and the fields. They’re full of flavors to enhance your cooking.
Herbs we’re growing
We’re again cultivating farm favorites—cilantro, dill, parsley, shiso, edible flowers and sweet basil. Though we’ve had bad luck in the past several years with downy mildew on basil, we’re trying a new variety that will hopefully have greater resistance to the disease. We’re hoping for enough basil to be able to give out both in bunches in your share and as pick-your-own, so that you can make your favorite pesto.
In addition, we have perennial herbs including two kinds of sage, savory, sorrel, marjoram, oregano, thyme, garlic chives, chives, tarragon, lovage, lemon verbena and rosemary.
When herbs are ready to pick
The herbs in the Culinary Herb Garden (immediately behind the greenhouse, where you see the wind sculpture) are available for you to pick yourself. As with other pick-your-own crops, they can be harvested on the day you pick up, or one day later.
All herbs are labeled, and any herb ready for harvest will have a yellow sparkled star placed next to the herb label to indicate that it can be picked. Please only harvest where you see the yellow stars! Herbs’ readiness for harvest depends on a variety of factors, and all herbs will have their chance during the season.
Lovage is among the first herbs ready to harvest. It is excellent in soups and stews. A little goes a long way, and it freezes well for future use.
Chives and chive flowers are now almost at the end of their harvestability before they go to seed. Chopped, these go well in salads or as a garnish for eggs or dips. Chive flowers make great butters or vinegars.
Marjoram has a scent and flavor similar to oregano and can be used as a milder substitute. Marjoram aids digestion. It can also help protect against common illnesses, reduce inflammation and relieve stress. Try it fresh or dried in soups, sauces, salads and stews.
Oregano has a robust flavor that pairs well with most foods. Try it in breads, marinades, as a seasoning for vegetables and beans, or as a pesto. Medicinally, oregano can be used as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, as well as to relieve bee stings. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties. We have both Italian and Greek oregano growing in the bed.
Sage flowers are in full bloom right now, and they need to be picked, so that the sage plant’s energy will go into leaves to use all season. Sage flowers are beautiful and can be used the same as sage.
Savory, fresh or dried, can be used in cooking and for medicinal purposes (it relieves indigestion and other digestive upsets). Use it to flavor vinegar, butter, beans, salad, soup and tea. Include dried savory leaves in potpourri.
How to harvest your herbs
Picking herbs requires care in order to preserve the plants and enable them to continue to grow. Here are some general rules for harvesting your herbs in order to ensure the plants remain strong and keep growing through the entire season. You will find information about harvesting specific herbs on the chalkboard by the kiosk at the entrance to the herb garden.
- Always use scissors to cut a small amount from different plants. (Though we have some pairs on hand, they are in demand. Don’t forget to bring your own)
- Never pull at herb plants or tug them with your hands; you might pull out the roots with the stem and prevent the herb from growing more leaves.
- Snip individual stems no more than 1/3 of the way toward the bottom of the plant. Think of harvesting as “giving the herbs a trim” so you are always leaving plenty of the plant behind to keep it healthy.
The herb garden will be open frequently so you can pick fresh. Please only harvest what you can use in a given week. If you’re hoping to dry your herbs for the winter, pick a little every week so that over time you collect enough while still leaving fresh herbs for everyone to share.
Please be sure to fully supervise your children who are helping you with harvesting. If you ever need assistance or are unsure about how to pick a herb please ask a farm staff member for help.
Look forward to to meeting you in the Herb Garden!