Harvesting herbs: how to make 5 easily homegrown herbs last beyond summer
Don't let the late summer rain wash away all your homegrown herbs. We offer top tips on how to keep them going, long after summer has faded
WANT to save your freshly grown herbs? They may have run to seed or look the worse for wear in the heavy summer rain, but it's easy if you know how. Some herbs will soon be coming to the end of their natural harvesting period, so here are some top tips on how to pick them to enjoy for months to come.
1. Mint: Hopefully you'll have grown your mint in a pot so it hasn't invaded other plants in your herb garden or border. The best way to harvest it is to start snipping as soon as the leaves are large enough. However, this may have been at the beginning of summer.
But if you want fresh mint into the winter months, take some cuttings now. Pick three leafy, non-flowered sprigs that are about 10cm long, sit them in a glass of water in a light position inside, ideally on a windowsill, and they should take root fairly quickly.
Then pot the cuttings into a container about the same size you'd buy in a supermarket pot of herbs, with multi-purpose compost, and the mint should continue to grow. Cut it regularly and it should bush out.
2. Parsley: This common herb is usually grown as an annual, either at the front of vegetable beds or in pots, but it doesn't dry well, so if you want to save your harvest, freeze bunches in a plastic bag, then you can rub the leaves off the stalks when you remove them, as needed.
3. Sage: This Christmas favourite – an essential addition to stuffing – also looks fantastic as an ornamental because of the striking texture and tone of its leaves. However, sage is a Mediterranean plant, so won't appreciate a really wet winter. To be on the safe side, dry your sage leaves now by blanching them – dipping them into boiling water followed by cold – then lay them out on baking trays in a warm area to dry, turning them over from time to time. Once they are totally dry, keep them in airtight screw-top jars.
4. Coriander: Have you noticed that your coriander plants have run to seed, sending up wisps of cow parsley-like flowers? Don't cut them off, because at this time of year, round, greenish seeds will be developing which can be used in your cooking. At the end of summer, cut the flower stalks complete with seedheads, and hang them upside down in a warm, dry place, but out of direct sunlight. Tie paper bags over the heads to catch the seeds which fall, and after a few days, shake the bag to encourage the seeds to drop.
You can then dry them on a tray before storing them in an airtight screw-top glass jar. When you want to use them, grind them in a spice mill or in a pestle and mortar for maximum flavour.
5. Chives: They may have long finished flowering, but if you want the oniony flavour of chives later on in the season, you're best off digging up a small clump from your garden to repot and take indoors. Cut the foliage down to 2.5-5cm (1-2in) above the top of the roots, then repot in multi-purpose compost for windowsill plants, which should soon start growing and will be ready after outdoor plants have died down for the winter.