Sage, shiso and purslane are ready for harvesting. Read Sara’s tips for using these herbs, and get some reminders about how to collect herbs in our herb gardens while maintaining healthy plants.
Sage is a favorite culinary herb. It’s name comes from the Latin, “to be saved.” It’s excellent with meats, cheese, poultry (including stuffing for turkey), and vegetables. It’s especially delicious with winter squash. Medicinally, sage can relieve coughs, sore throats and digestive issues, and it makes a calming tonic to relieve muscle tension.
To harvest sage, look for the longest stems and cut 1/3 of the way down with scissors only, or pinch back the top cluster of leaves.
Though we did not “officially” plant shiso this year, it has come up as a volunteer at the end of the sage bed. You will see the purple variety, and also a bit of the green with purple variety (see the photo at the top of this story)
Shiso is a member of the mint family. It is also known as Japanese basil or perilla. It has large teardrop-shaped leaves with a slightly prickly texture and pointy, jagged edges. Its flavor is pungent and grassy, containing strong notes of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. Slicing shiso into long skinny strips really brings out these flavors.
Use shiso pretty much any way you would use basil or mint. It pairs well with a wide variety of foods and flavors, including rice, noodles and pasta, tofu, avocado, cucumber, mushrooms, tomato, ginger and soy sauce, sesame, fish (it’s great with tuna) and shellfish, pork and many fruits (especially plums).
In Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisines, shiso is most often used as a wrapping or to flavor soups and rice. It can also be tossed into a stir-fry, ground up into a pesto sauce, tossed with some sesame seed oil and soba noodles, or used in cocktails such as a shiso julep.Try it julienned and sprinkled on a simple citrus or mixed green salad, tossed into a pot of your favorite green tea, or in scrambled eggs with a generous spoonful of plain, unsweetened yogurt.,
Purslane: A Weed You Can Eat
Purslane is a low-lying succulent plant with a lemony flavor (see photo at right). It grows as a weed in the fields and in the culinary herb garden. Pull it up and try it!
Low in calories and fat, purslane is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. Fresh leaves contain more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant: 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provide about 350 mg of alpha-linolenic acid.
Purslane also has one best sources of Vitamin A among all green leafy vegetables. It’s rich in Vitamin C, carotenoids, and some B-complex vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin and pyridoxine. It also has many dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. (Note that purslane also contains oxaclic acid, in case that is a concern).
Try juicing fresh, raw leaves; include tender leaves in salads; sauté and gently stew the stems and leaves to serve as a side dish with fish and poultry; add to soup and curry preparations and eat with rice, as in South Indian regional cooking, or stir-fry and mix with vegetables and other leafy greens such as spinach.
How To Harvest Herbs So They Last All Season
If you pick herbs each week, and dry them on your kitchen counter or band together and dry upside down, you will have enough dry herbs for the year! However, harvesting each herb takes some care and attention. Here are essential tips to make sure the herb plants thrive and remain available to all sharers throughout the season:
Harvest the plants evenly
People tend to harvest only from the front of each row, resulting in a few plants becoming over harvested. Walk a few steps further, to the middle or end of each row, and snip your share from the larger plants.
Include the flowers
The flowers on herb plants are always edible and we encourage you to harvest these along with the leaves.
If there are no special directions listed on the chalkboard, use the following guidelines. Please note that some herbs listed here are not yet ready to be picked. Harvest only from beds marked with a sparkly yellow star.
- Marjoram, oregano, savory, garlic chives, thyme, cilantro, and dill: cut stems one third of the way from the top of the plant. You can gather a handful of the herbs, and cut a third of the way down, as though giving the herbs a ‘haircut’.
- Tarragon, rosemary, and lemon verbena: Cut one or two sprigs at a time, carefully cutting about 2/3 of the way down.
- Shiso, sage, and all basils: Cut just the top leaf cluster, you will see underneath it that small leaves are growing which will now grow and branch out, making the plant bushy
- Parsley and sorrel : Take a close look at the plant from which you are harvesting to ensure it is a good size to harvest from. Harvest the outer leaves only, and always ensure that at least half the plant is left.
Always use scissors
Using scissors will ensure that the plants are not damaged.
Children the herb gardens
Children must be supervised at all times. Please engage your children to participate with you in cutting the herbs carefully and thoughtfully. You will be offering them a precious education!
By following these guidelines, we’ll ensure that everyone is able to enjoy our herbs all season long.