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July is the key month for harvesting, preserving and propagating your herbs and there are plenty of options, says Gaby Bartai



Of the top 20 culinary herbs, only six or so can be harvested through the winter. Up to a point that isn’t a problem; herbs, like all crops, have their season, and evergreen stalwarts like rosemary, sage and bay step up as summer salads give way to winter roasts and casseroles. But the preserved flavours of summer can light up a winter’s day – and preserving season starts early for herbs, which are mostly at their peak in July.


The optimum time to harvest herbs for storage is mid-morning – I’ve seen sources which pin it down to 10.30am – on a dry, still day in early summer. There’s logic behind this prescriptiveness: wet plant material won’t dry well, and will stick together if you freeze it, so you need to wait until the dew has dried. By late morning, however, the heat of the sun will be burning off the volatile oils that give the leaves their flavour.

Leaf herbs should be harvested before they flower – once they do, the leaves become tougher and have less flavour – and flowers should be harvested just before the buds open fully. Seeds are ready to harvest just as they are about to fall; tap the seed-head and if the first seeds fall loose, it’s time to cut the seed-heads or pods and get them indoors.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Kitchen Garden is Britain's best guide to growing your own. It offers advice from the finest minds in gardening to make sure you get the tastiest produce from your plot.