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How to pick herbs

Overview

Culinary herbs are the original cut-and-come-again crop, so if you've got them in the garden, don't be afraid to get snipping and picking. The plants really will benefit from it, and you'll have wonderful flavours to add to dishes. Most herbs and leafy plants naturally want to create seeds, and once they get to that stage, it means the end of a herb like parsley, chives or basil. So pick leaves early and often to encourage the plant to put out more foliage and prevent it from running to seed. It may be cheating Nature but it extends the life of your plants and gives you handfuls of herbs to enjoy.

How to do it

Cutting chives

1Chives grow quickly in spring and summer. Cut as you need them for use, trimming right down to the base. Keep four or five pots at the ready, so you always have some at different stages to harvest.


Pinching out parsley leaf and stalk

2When cutting parsley, always remove the whole leaf, together with the leaf stalk, nipping it back to where it joins the clump. Avoid the oldest leaves as these tend to be tough.


Cutting tips of rosemary

3Cutting rosemary for culinary use will prevent the plant from becoming woody. Use secateurs to trim 10cm - 15cm from each shoot, as required. Avoid cutting back into woody, leafless branches. Hang up bunches of rosemary to air dry, ready to use in winter.


Basil plant

4When harvesting basil, nip out with scissors or between finger and thumb, the tips of the plants back to just above a pair of leaves. New growth will emerge at this point. Don't nip just below the leaf, leaving a short stem, as this will simply wither.


Herb ice cubes

5Where you have more of a particular herb than you can use at one time, make herb ice cubes. These will provide you with the taste of home-grown herbs to use when you're no longer picking fresh leaves.


Adam's tip

Grow herbs in a sunny spot in the garden to get the best flavour from their leaves, but ensure the ground is rich and moist.



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Talkback: How to pick herbs
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MariaFloyd 24/11/2011 at 15:28

A tip on freezing herbs like parsley. My Mum always froze the leaves of parsley whole in a large ice cream container. Then when she required some parsley she just scraped it out with a fork the required amount. It was then instantly chopped and thawed within seconds.

sonichmcgill 24/11/2011 at 15:28

What is the best and quickest way to dried out herbs or is it better to freeze them in bags.

alisonash 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I froze Dill that i bought from supermarket its easy to snap off what you need. Didnt use ice tray, simply used a foil "envelop"

SkyeSteve 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Is it best to pick taragon and oregano at the base of stem as with parsley?

gardenerbest 10/12/2011 at 11:27

thanks for that