While the signs of winter are all around us, and many of us are looking forward to a break from gardening, I just wanted to remind you (and myself) that fall is a great time to harvest perennial herbs. While many perennial herbs are best when harvested in the spring, there are a few cold-hardy herbs that send out a second flush of fresh growth in the cool wet fall weather, so here is my pick for the best perennial herbs for a fall harvest.
I consider this my last chance to harvest my own homegrown herbs before the snow flies. I put so much guilt on myself when I have to buy dried herbs from the store, especially when it’s something that grows in my garden 7 months of the year, and I’ve simply forgotten to harvest enough for the winter.
Sage is a great herb to harvest in the fall because the leaves are tender and full of moisture from the fall rains. Another great reason to harvest sage in the fall is that it pairs so well with turkey, can you say Thanksgiving dinner?! 😉
In the fall harvest sage by plucking individual leaves or by trimming off young branches. I try to avoid cutting deep into the woody stem, doing so could possibly damage the plant especially when done before a hard frost. So, if you’re nervous just pluck the leaves and bring them indoors to use them fresh.
Sage dries well and this can be done by simply laying the leaves out on some paper towel until they are fully dry and crisp, then store them in an airtight container.
I feel like chives are an underutilized perennial herb. They are beautiful in the garden and so easy to grow, but best of all they taste fantastic.
Chives can be harvested from very early spring through to late fall because they are so cold hardy. Simply snip the fresh green shoots with sharp kitchen scissors and then trim them right into egg dishes, soups or even salads for a savory onion flavor that isn’t overpowering
Chives also dry well and can be harvested in a big bundle with a sharp serrated knife, simply gather a handful of fresh chive shoots and saw them off close to the base. Bring them in and air-dry them on paper towel or use a dehydrator to fully dry the herbs before storing them in an airtight container.
Thyme is another workhorse of an herb, it turns out that thyme has huge anti-viral properties and works wonders to ward off colds and flus. Perhaps this is why our moms fed us chicken noodle soup when we were sick, thyme is one of the main herbs in chicken broth.
In the fall harvest thyme by snipping the young woody shoot and bringing them into dry. I find that thyme is best when dried in a paper bag with a few vent holes or in a large glass or metal bowl. Either way, the objective is to retain all of those tiny little leaves.
Fresh thyme can also be added to a jar of honey, doing so will infuse the honey with all of those lovely savory, medicinal, properties. Add the thyme-infused honey to hot lemon water or ginger tea when you feel a cold coming on.
Oregano is the jewel of tomato dishes and is what gives many Italian dishes their signature flavor. To harvest oregano, snip the fresh green tops and bundle them to dry upside-down in an airy location out of direct sunlight.
Oregano, like other perennial herbs, can be susceptible to molds or mildew in wet growing conditions so only harvest bits that are fresh and green and don’t show any signs of mildew or black spot.
Ok, truth bomb! I used to hate lemon balm… but now I love it! This is because I don’t enjoy it as the solo ingredient in hot tea, I prefer it as part of an herbal tea blend like my Chill Out Herbal Tea Blend. I also love it fresh in smoothies and added to ice water for a mild lemony flavor. I also use lemon balm in herbal skin recipes like lip balms and salves.
Lemon balm is simple to harvest, just snip the fresh green growth and hang it upside down in a bundle to dry it, be sure to keep it in a cool dry location out of direct sunlight.
I’ve recently learned that using lemon balm medically (ie. more than 3-5 times a week) can interfere with thyroid medication, so with any herbs, talk to your healthcare practitioner before embarking on any herbal regime.
Mint loves moisture, and the cool, wet weather that fall can bring. So fall is a great time to harvest mint for drying indoors.
Whether you grow mint in a pot or let it ramble throughout your yard, simply snip the young fresh sprigs and hang them to dry. Once they are dry I like to crumble the sprigs over a large metal bowl and discard any firm stocks. After that, I use a wide canning funnel to transfer the dry mint leaves to a jar and pop it in my tea cupboard. Mmmm… mint tea 🙂
While lavender is best known for its gorgeous purple blossoms, the heavily scented silver leaves are useful too. I add lavender leaves to my bath salts, herbal teas and sometimes even my gin & soda 😉
In the fall harvest lavender leaves by snipping the young shoots, taking care not to cut too deeply into the woody stocks, doing so can cause damage to the stock, especially if done before a hard frost.
Dry lavender in bundles hung upside down in a dry location. Crumble the dry stocks into a bowl, transfer, and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Learn how to make Lavender Infused Honey Here.
So, that’s it for today! I hope you found this useful and that you get the chance to pop out and harvest some herbs before winter has its way with them.
If you like this you might also like my other Herb Gardening articles.
Thanks for hanging out!