Harvesting herbs for food production
Answered by: Rick Miller
Question from: Jeff
Posted on: May 22, 2009

Hello, we’re on a 20ha permaculture garden on the south island of New Zealand. Our basil did very well this season and we decided to begin a small pesto making operation, both for winter food stores and to make a little money. We have been harvesting the basil by hand, first picking the stems that are beginning to flower, and then stripping the leaves off the stems. The stripping is our largest input in terms of time and labour (and therefore cost).

Large harvesting machines are not an option for us, both because our basil has a relatively small area in the garden, and because much of it is companion-planted amongst other crops. What I’m wondering is if there is a smaller machine that can strip the leaves right off the plant, eliminating the need to process the basil further before it goes into the pesto.

Basil is mostly harvest by hand, even when done in mid-sized acreages. The costs in harvest-labor are well within parameters necessary for profitable productions. A 4-acre operation will gross more than $20,000,000 in sales, when put up as a pesto cottage industry.

You will want a large wall-in refer for storage of raw materials and final product storage. I did invent a leaf stripper, somewhat like used for Hops. This one was designed for Cedar Leaf and Fir Tips.

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