Knowing how to harvest herbs is very beneficial if you like drinking herbal teas and using herbal remedies. There's a little more to it than stepping out of the car and harvesting Echinacea from the side of the road. In fact, you should never pick herbs from the side of the road due to the toxic content it will have absorbed from automobile exhaust. Once you know how to harvest your own herbs, you will never have to buy them again.
When learning how to harvest herbs, you will need:
- Leather gloves
- A shovel
- Plant shears
- Plastic gallon sized bags
- A picture book of herbs
- Labels and a pen
- Begin harvesting the herbs in the morning after the dew has dried. Take a drive or a walk out into the countryside with your book and look for the specific herbs you need. Wear gloves when handling the plants. Once you have spotted the herb you need, make sure it has no insect damage or plant diseases such as would make the leaves discolored.
- Different herbal properties come from different parts of the plant, so you must identify which part of the plant should be harvested. For instance, Ginseng's healing properties are found within the dried root of the plant, while the Mullein plant yields its healing properties from the leaves, and the Marigold from its flower. However some plants have healing properties contained within the roots, leaves, and flowers, such as Echinacea. Learning how to harvest herbs may mean investing in a good quality book on the subject of herbs.
- After identifying which part of the chosen plant you need, select your harvesting tool. If you need the flowers you can cut them off with scissors or the plant shears, leaving at least three inches of the stem in tact. If you need the leaves trim these off with the scissors. And if the root of the plant is needed, use the shovel to dig around the plant, farther out than you think the roots are so as not to damage them. Once the roots are out of the ground, shake or knock the dirt off the root and trim off the stem with the shears.
- Place each different plant into different bags, labeling them. Place them in the trunk of your car to return home. Be sure to leave the area where you harvested your herbs in as pristine a condition as you found it. Knowing how to harvest herbs in an earth friendly manner is very important.
- Upon returning home, you will need to dry out the herbs immediately so they won't mold. Flowers should be grouped in small bunches and tied together. You can use rubber bands if you like. Then hang them upside down to dry for at least a week, maybe longer depending on the size. For leaves, spread these on newspaper away from direct sunlight and allow to dry undisturbed. Flowers and leaves will crumble easily when completely dry. Roots my need to be rinsed off and then allowed to dry on paper away from direct sunlight. Turn roots and leaves over every other day to assure complete drying of all areas. Plants have to be completely dry before storing them.
When learning how to harvest herbs, always wear protective gloves. Some plants contain volatile chemicals which can irritate the skin. It is also a very good idea to wear boots when hiking into tall grasses in case of snakes.