It has been a really good week for herbs in the garden. It started with lemon balm on Monday. If lemon balm gave me nothing but the ability to brush by it and smell its wonderful scent, I would still grow it. But it also makes a wonderful tea when fresh. What I would like is to do is to dry it for the winter. I wasn't successful last year. The dried leaves tasted like parsley in the winter. All of that fabulous lemon drop flavor was gone. So this year I'm trying again. Being that it is an invasive plant, I have plenty of growth to try. When the leaves were dried, they smelled a little of lemon, but will it last until winter?
Tuesday saw me drag out the dehydrator yet another day. It wasn't planned. I usually harvest oregano in the spring until it gets its typical disease. I'm not sure what it is, but it looks just like my tomato leaves. Little black spots. This usually happens to the lower leaves first and travels up the plants. I harvest before it gets bad. I noticed that the lower leaves were just starting to get spotted. So I harvested much of the good part of the plant to dry. I think I need to let this little plant spread out a bit more so my harvest is bigger since I'm not sure I have quite enough to last the whole year.
Friday brought the thyme harvest and another round for the dehydrator. The French thyme is already in full bloom, but the English thyme was just starting to get its buds. I chopped it way back. It was only about two ounces of thyme, but once dried it filled my bottle to the top and made my house smell heavenly. I don't pick leaves off of the thyme to dry. I just dry the whole stem. Once it is dry I run my hand down the stem. All the little dried leaves pop right off.
And last but not least in the harvest is the chamomile. Chamomile self seeds every year. I planted it for the first time last year and I've got chamomile seedlings coming up all over the place. I love self seeding plants. I don't have to work nearly as hard for them. What I didn't know is that some of last years plants would over winter. I planted annual chamomile. I figured they would all die out over the winter. Not so. I had two plants survive. They are already producing a crop of flowers. I pick them early in the morning and only pull off the heads that have their petals swept back. Nothing is better than harvesting chamomile in the spring. The smell is so devine. It is nothing like the dried tea packets you get. Those lack the depth of fresh chamomile.
Later in the season I will dry chamomile with the dehydrator. Right now there is just a small handful. I put them in the windowsill to dry, covered by a piece of paper towel. They will slowly dry. That is if they last. They may get used up rather quickly. But there is always more. Every few days a new batch of flowers are ready to be picked. The harvest lasts until frost if you keep them picked. By the end of the summer I know I'll be cursing having to pick the little flowers, but for now I'm in love.