Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Harvesting and Drying Herbs and Introducing Hyssop

Just picked  -Lemon Balm and Hyssop

   Sunday was the perfect day for harvesting hyssop and lemon balm.  They  are just starting  to flower,  the time when the leaves are most potent and flavorful.  I  cut the  herbs in the morning on a dry day, shortly after the leaves have dried from the night dew and before the sun gets too hot and robs them of their flavor.

   I find a comfortable spot in the shade and "pick over" my harvest.  Now is the time to eliminate any leaves that aren't perfect.  Most herbs are immune to bug damage and disease but still, I only dry the healthiest looking leaves.  This job can be compared to knitting or crocheting, other Zen-like activities.  It is repetitive, somewhat mindless and soothing.  Add the lovely aromas generated by working with  herbs, and it is a delightful, meditative  way to pass a morning.


   Once  I remove any leaves that aren't perfect, I plunge them into a clean sink full of cold water and swish them vigorously to remove any dirt.  Some herbalists don't recommend washing and prefer to just brush the herbs off.  The nurse in me is compelled to wash!  And, as long as I do it quickly, it doesn't seem to affect the flavor.

Lemon Balm

     Next I shake the herbs vigorously or spin in a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water, then I lay them on a clean tea towel under the ceiling fan in my dining room. Other methods include tying several stems  in a bunch and hanging the plant up-side down or using a dehydrator.  Some herbs, like basil and cilantro are best preserved in the freezer.

So what is Hyssop?

             Hyssop is a somewhat strong flavored member of the mint family, used  primarily for its medicinal qualities,  although it has been used to season food in the past. It is one of the ingredients I use to make my "Cold and Flu Tea."   We brew this tea all winter to ward off  and treat all  manner of viruses that come our way.  Hyssop is known to relieve congestion and improve a cough.  It is also said to be anti-viral.


Easy to grow even from seed, hyssop becomes an attractive shrub in a season or two.  It can be pruned to keep it in bounds and  it makes a nice border hedge in the herb garden.  The flowers are blue, pink or white and the bees and butterflies love it.  One more reason it is welcome  in my garden!

Hyssop and Sage Flowers


        Here's a link to a post about :  Lemon Balm


  1. How lovely! I've never grown hyssop before, probably too late for this season, but will definitely add it to my list for next Spring.

    I also didn't know that picking herbs after the sun gets hot robs them of flavor - something else to remember! Will have to link back here when I get ready to harvest my basil. ;)

    1. Thank you, Mikaela. Herbs are some of the most rewarding plants to grow and there is so much to learn about them. Here is another interesting fact about hyssop. It is a good companion plant to grow alongside cabbage. Along with mint and southernwood, it will act as a deterrent to cabbage moths.

  2. I live in the midwest. This is my first year growing herbs. Does hyssop survive over winter? I also have basil. Does that survive winters?

  3. Hyssop is a perennial herb and seems quite hardy in my zone 7 garden. Basil is an annual. I harvest and preserve as much basil as I can to use over the winter. My favorite way to preserve basil is to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, it can be stored in freezer bags until needed. (If I freeze the pesto, I leave out the cheese and add it when I defrost the pesto.)

  4. Can you share the tea recipe listed above?

  5. Hi Soulniquely! I use the following herbs in my 'cold and flu tea' I make it in bulk and usually use 1 measure of each unless otherwise noted. You can vary the amounts to taste.
    Elderberry flowers and berries
    Hyssop leaves
    Lemon Balm (this can be sedating so sometimes I make a batch without it and add it when I am making the tea)
    Lemon grass
    Lemon Verbena
    Hibiscus Flowers
    Rose Hips
    Red Clover
    Red Raspberry leaves
    Linden (1/2 measure)
    Also Holy basil if I have any on hand.

    Mix dried herbs well and store in a cool dark place until ready to use.

    Add fresh Ginger Root (added at the time I am actually brewing the tea.)

    I use 1 to 2 heaping teaspoons per cup and steep for about 10-15 minutes.

    Sip slowly and feel better!


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