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Harvesting and Drying Herbs

Harvesting

When harvesting plants and flowers you should have an attitude of thankfulness. Be happy for the bounty that is available. Always keep the area you are using pristine. We need to harvest plants which can be eaten and used. We are helping the seeds sow. Not harvesting plants can cause them to die off.

However, it is important not to over-harvest. If there is an area where you like to gather plants keep a log of where you go and then section it mind and jot down notes of where you plan to harvest the following year.

It is essential that you follow instructions on when to gather and how to use each herb.You should harvest herbs on a dry day when they are ripe, unless instructed otherwise.

Harvest fruit and berries when they are just ripe before it becomes too soft. In this state they will dry effectively. Bark should be harvested in autumn when the sap is falling, this will minimize damage to the plant or tree. Do not remove all of the bark from a limb. Do not remove a strip in a complete circle around a limb or trunk.

Flowers are best harvested in the morning just after the dew, if any, has evaporated. Carefully cut flower heads from the stems and dry them whole on trays. Small flowers, like lavender need to be harvested like seeds, that is cut the flower with about 15-25 cm of the stem, hang and dry upside down over paper away from direct sunlight.

Most roots should be harvested in autumn when the plant which is showing above ground has wilted. Always double check your reference or guide before doing any harvesting. Make sure to do your harvesting before the ground becomes too hard to make digging hard.

Drying

Dry herbs quickly and away from harsh light. Do not dry them in an area where they may pick up other odours, such as a garage. Herbs become contaminated with gasoline fumes. For best results keep your drying room between 79-90 degrees F. When herbs are dry store in a clean, airtight container. The best containers limit light, are dark glass or are pottery. Most herbs can be kept for 12-18 months.

Roots need to be washed then cut into small pieces after all of the dirt has been removed. Small roots can be stored whole, however large roots are difficult to cut when dry. You can speed the drying process by using your oven set on its lowest temperature for approximately 2-3 hours.

Drying leaves takes two different forms depending upon size. Large leaves may be dried individually. Smaller leaves need to be left on the stem, gathered into a group then tied in small bunches. Bunches should be between 8 and 12 stems depending upon size. Once tied, hang upside down to dry. When the leaves are brittle to the touch rub them from the stem onto paper and crumble together. Remember to store your gathered herbs in airtight containers.

References:
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, pages 118-119

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