Harvesting Herbs After Flowering
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Dennis Watson
Posted on: September 8, 1999

Which herbs do you harvest after they flower? And are most herbs annuals or perennials? The ones that I have growing in my garden right now are thyme and mint.

Probably most herbs are perennial, but many of the most important ones such as dill, fennel, coriander, and others, are annual. The two you are growing are perennials and are winter-hardy in temperate regions.

Many herbs can be picked after flowering. Most herbs of which the leaves or whole aerial portion (the "herb") are used are generally best harvested just as the plants reach flowering. Many studies confirm that the essential oil content – the main determinant of flavour and odour in many herbs – reaches a maximum just prior to full flowering. However, that does not mean that these same herbs cannot be picked before or after flowering. In the case of thyme and mint, for example, their leaves still possess good flavour and aroma after the plants have flowered and gone to seed. Besides a decrease in oil content, the leaves may show signs of senescence with spots or other flaws developing over time; but nonetheless the leaves and herb will still be worth using. Let your nose and tastebuds guide you when picking culinary herbs.

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