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How To Harvest Rosemary The Right Way

An evergreen shrub, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a robust herb that is ideal for your kitchen garden. Rosemary grows equally well in the ground or in a container garden, just as long as it gets plenty of full sun. Furthermore, this Mediterranean herb is not particularly picky about its soil, as long as it’s well-drained soil. It’s easy to maintain and harvest. As a result, even novice gardeners should learn how to harvest rosemary, because anyone can keep it growing!

Whether you utilize it fresh or store it for later use in cooking, it adds a wonderful smell and distinctive taste to any recipe. The aromatic herb is also popular in the personal care product industry and is abundantly used in soaps, cosmetics, and even hair oil.

If you plan on growing rosemary in your garden or patio to enjoy a bountiful harvest, it is best to grow several plants so that you always have plants to take cuttings from. You can also preserve this lovely herb for long-term culinary adventures. 

So today, we’ll examine everything you need to know about harvesting and storing rosemary.  Soon you’ll be drying stems like a pro!

When Should I Harvest Rosemary?

How To Harvest Rosemary
Once you know how to harvest rosemary, you’ll always have a supply. Source: Hecuba’s Story

Rosemary plant is hardy and produces a bountiful harvest in almost all climates. It can be harvested at any time throughout the year.

However, keep in mind that the rosemary plant grows most actively during the spring and summer seasons, so those are the best seasons to harvest. Don’t rule out the ability to cut a few stems for the kitchen in the colder months, though! Those in colder climates may want to bring rosemary plants indoors once the temperature starts to drop to continue harvesting through the winter season.

You can start harvesting rosemary leaves for daily use as soon as the plant becomes established. If you plan on growing rosemary for drying, it is best to wait until just before the plant starts to bloom. At this point, the leaves are loaded with oil content. Harvesting the leaves as soon as flowers start to appear will give you the best flavor and most aromatic leaves.  

Like most other herbs, the best time of the day to harvest is in the morning. Wait until the dew from the last night evaporates from the foliage. Collect the leaves before it gets too hot during the day. 

You can harvest the leaves whenever required, but the best practice is to take cuttings from plants on a regular cycle, perhaps as often as weekly trimming if your plants are large. Regular pruning will give you full, healthy, and bushy plants. The more consistently you cut to encourage new growth, the more you can harvest in the long term!

Make sure you perform the last harvest of the season at least 2 weeks before the first frost is expected. Harvesting rosemary plants often in cold weather can have adverse effects on the plant. Bigger and bushier plants are more likely to survive through the cold months.

How To Harvest Rosemary Plant

Rosemary plant
Harvest regularly from established rosemary plants. Source: k8southern

Growing rosemary in your garden can be a lot of fun, and the plant will spring back quickly. The first thing you need to do is to select the right branches. 

Look for branches that are at least 8 inches in height. While it is best to harvest supple new tips or softer tips for fresh use, woody stems can offer some fresh use as well. These woody stems are excellent when used fresh for their flavor, and can act as a skewer for meat dishes. 

Never trim more than 1/3 of the plant at any given time to make sure your rosemary plant stays happy and healthy. Use sharp and sterile scissors or garden shears to cut off the top 2 to 3 inches of the stem, leaving the rest of the stem’s length to encourage it to grow back fast and healthy. Let the branches grow back to at least 8 inches long before you harvest the same part of the plant again.

If you are harvesting for fresh use, stick to collecting new green leaves or soft stems. On the other hand, when harvesting for drying, you can go all out and harvest the plants up to the woody base. Be careful not to take too much off the base at any time to be sure the plant is able to keep growing.

How To Store Rosemary

Rosemary bundle
Tie rosemary stems into a bundle and hang to dry. Source: jamieanne

Have you ever tossed fresh herbs because they went bad before you got a chance to use them? Well, your fresh rosemary will never go to waste again if you learn how to store it properly. Here are a few ways to make your freshly harvested rosemary last for a long time.

Storing Fresh Rosemary

Store rosemary sprigs in water, bouquet style, to increase their lifespan. Fill a vase or glass with about 1 to 2 inches of water. Submerge the trimmed ends of the sprigs. It is a good idea to remove the leaves that end up underwater so they don’t start to break down. Tent a plastic bag over the glass and place it in the fridge. Change water daily. Fresh rosemary stored using this method can last for up to 2 weeks.     

You can also refrigerate the stems for short-term use without moisture. Wrap the stems in a couple of paper towels to keep the foliage dry. Seal the wrapped herbs in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Use cut rosemary stored in a plastic bag for 3 to 5 days. 

How To Dry Rosemary

Dried rosemary needles

Wondering how to preserve rosemary for long term use? One of the easiest ways to dry rosemary is to use a dehydrator. However, keep in mind that excess heat from the dehydrator can damage the flavor of the oils, so it’s best to opt for a cooler drying method.

Hang-dry your harvest by tying the harvested stems together. Hang the bunch upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area. It usually takes about 10 days to air-dry the needle-like rosemary leaves. Once completely dry, strip the leaves off by running your fingers from the back of the stem towards the tip. 

Store your dried leaves whole, chopped, or powdered in an airtight container. Dried rosemary can last for quite a long time, but for the best flavor, use within the first year. 

Other Methods Of Storing Rosemary

Try freezing rosemary for another method of long-term storage. You can freeze the sprigs individually. Start by washing the herbs thoroughly. Dry the sprigs with paper towels and place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer to finish air-drying. Once the rosemary isn’t damp, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for about an hour.

When the rosemary is frozen solid, shift the frozen stems to a freezer bag. Label the bag and store your rosemary in the freezer for up to a year. For best flavor, use within 3 to 4 months.

There is no need to defrost your frozen rosemary before use. Simply remove the frozen leaves from their stem and add them to your favorite recipes.


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