Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Week of Herbs

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.


  1. Your herb garden is so pretty! I'm thinking I need to get some lemon balm! I have chamomile seeds, but I didn't get any to germinate yet! So glad to hear it self sows!!

  2. You make me want to grow chamomile. :-)

  3. All your herbs look beautiful!

    Awesome that you're drying them to enjoy later! What kind of dehydrator would you recommend?

  4. I didn't plant much herbs at all this year but you're making me want to grow some! I'll definitely try to grow chamomile next year :)

  5. I've grown Chamomile before, it makes a nice ornmental plant as well. Congrats on your herbs. They look great! :)

  6. Worms and Flowers, they have such tiny seeds and take so long to germinate. Thank goodness they self sow every year. I'd hate to have to get them started every year.

    Kim, go for it :> You will love it until around July or August. Then you will curse me for convincing you for planting them. You have to keep most those flowers picked to make them keep producing. Picking off each flower head is really one of the most tedious chores. Eventually I give up on it and just let them go to seed.

    Toni-zone, if you can afford it I recommend one with a thermostat and fan to equalize the heat. Mine is an el cheapo one. It cost about $20. It has a heating element at the bottom, but it just uses convection to dry. It is uneven and too hot for some of the leaves. Excalibur dehydrators are the primo ones. They cost an arm and a leg ($150-200). American Harvest has some nice ones, but they make quite a few different styles ($50-150) just make sure it has a thermostat and fan or you will be curing your dehydrator forever, just like I do. Though I guess for $20 I can't complain too much.

    Cynthia, I love herbs. They are just so easy. I think basil is the only one I grow that is not either perennial or self sowing.

    perennialgardener, thanks

  7. I spent several years yanking out the lemon balm in our yard. Then I learned its history and uses and fell in love with it. Now it gets to come up wherever it wants in the yard. And it is much better behaved than when I was trying to eradicate it! Everything I've read says that a lot of the lemon-y-ness will be lost in the drying. I use it fresh and have made a wonderful tea mixed with pineapple mint.