Harvesting Herbs: Catnip Drying for Storage

Early this morning the low temperature was 47 and sunshine is on tap for today. A great day for harvesting a few herbs and drying them in the sun.

After the morning chill is gone and the sun warms everything a bit, we’ll take the scissors or pruners to cut down some herbs. If the plant is an annual, it’ll be pulled out of the ground and the excess soil removed from the roots.

Large stems or whole plants will be draped over a wire mesh for drying. Bulky plants will be turned every so often or trimmed down so that air can circulate around the plant parts we want to collect.

Once the plant seems dry to the touch, it can be manicured or clipped into smaller pieces.

Catnip was harvested a couple days ago by pulling out the entire plant. The three feet tall stems were laid on a piece of (untreated) plywood in the garage. The stems were turned about once a day so that all parts could dry out. After three days time the plant was almost completely dry, except for a few tips of the stems.

At this point a large, black plastic bag was laid out flat. The purpose of the bag was to give a clean surface on which to collect the dried herb. Each stem was manicured by cutting off the flowering spikes and leaves, which were allowed to fall onto the plastic bag.

Leaves that had turned brown – the catnip plant was drying up from the bottom as it concentrated on flowering and producing seeds – were stripped off and placed in a separate pile from the dried green herb. The brown leaves will go to the cats and the green leaves will go into tea. When you strip leaves from the stems try not to crumble the leaves so the herb’s essence will remain intact.

The cut catnip was allowed to lay out on the plastic bag for another day before being collected into small brown bags for temporary storage. Each bag was labeled with “Catnip – September 2008”. Catnip for tea will be stored in a glass container inside a cupboard.

What are you going to harvest today?