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Basil and other annual herbs grown for their leaves need regular harvesting during the summer. By mid-summer plants are near their final height. Most annuals need periodic harvesting to keep them from going to seed. Clipping lets them focus on growing leaves.
Harvest edible herb flowers such as dill, lavender, borage, and tarragon just after the flowers open. At that point, the heads will be firm and at maximum flavor. Handle them gently to minimize damage.
Gathering dill, coriander (cilantro), and other seed producers requires more careful timing. Watch for the seeds to plump and turn brown. Clip the heads immediately or you’ll lose your harvest to hungry birds or high winds.
For all your herbs, harvest only parts that are in good condition. Leaves, seeds, or flowers that are damaged or wilted won’t improve after they’re clipped.
To preserve herbs for cooking, lay the stalks in a single layer on an absorbent towel that you’ve placed on a flat surface. Allow them to air-dry for 6-8 days. Once the leaves become dry and crackly, store them in an airtight container away from light. Basil is okay dried, but doesn’t hold its flavor as well as oregano, dill, and many other herbs.
When drying herbs, it’s important to prevent mold. Each day during the drying, fluff the herb stalks to expose new parts to the air. If you live in a hot, humid area, take advantage of the high temperatures in an outbuilding or the trunk of your car (left in the sun) for “express drying.”
Plant tips & links
Are you having a problem with a plant in your garden? Do you want some pointers on planting conifers or dividing your daylilies? Or how to select someone to help with your damaged trees? This is the U.S. National Arboretum's online gateway for practical information on a wide variety of commonly asked questions.
The U.S. National Arboretum manages pests with a program called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM means using a combination of methods to control and prevent pests. Check out these helpful tips.