In my garden, right next to the cottage I have a large rosemary bush. Every year I harvest that rosemary to dry it and preserve it for later use and give some of it to my friends. I learned some basic things about when and how to do harvest rosemary without killing the plant, and what to avoid in the whole process. If you have a rosemary plant or a friend with a plant in their garden you might have the opportunity to pick fresh rosemary. Here is the info on when and how to harvest your rosemary, for drying or smudging, in the bloom and at end of the season.
When to Harvest – Right Harvesting Time
How long to harvest rosemary? This fragrant, vigorous, and evergreen herb can be harvested all year round although the best harvesting time is in summer, just before or during flowering when the aromatic oils are at their peak and the essence of the plant is best preserved. I also collect all my cuttings at the pruning time.
What is the best time of the day for harvest? Mid-morning is the best time to cut the stems to allow the previous night’s dew to dry and to avoid the height heat of the day.
Above photo: My rosemary plant in the full bloom, ready for harvesting
How to harvest rosemary without killing the plant – step by step
Here are the steps to cut rosemary without killing the plant:
- Step 1: Choose the right time to harvest – avoid harvesting in the winter (the dormant season)
- Step 2: Select new shoots from the plant that is at least 20 cm long
- Step 3: Cut the stems on about 3/4 of the plant max
- Step 4: Leave at least 1/4 of the branch intact with as many leaves as possible
- Step 5: Water the plant thoroughly
- Step 6: Add some fertilizer to help the plant to recover
- Step 7: Monitor your plant or bush regularly to spot any unusual development
If you have rosemary in your garden, then keep trimming some of the plants off regularly, like once a fortnight to encourage its growth. Unless your plan is to dry, don’t cut more than you need. If you cut more than needed, store your fresh rosemary in an airtight container, keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze.
Rosemary will grow pretty much all season, so continue to water and feed it and it will keep giving back and you’ll keep having even more rosemary you can use in your recipes.
Do you have to dry rosemary before you use it? No, you don’t have to dry rosemary before you use it. When you’re going to harvest your rosemary you just need to take as much as you need for your recipe. If you only need a little bit of rosemary for your recipe you just want to clip a little bit. I love to use rosemary when I’m marinating vegetables or I cut longer and older stems to use it as a skewer and squeeze my meat cubes right on it and put it directly on the grill. So, get some longer, woody stems which are great for skewers.
Above photo: My this year’s harvest
Harvesting Rosemary For Drying
If your intention is to dry the rosemary, it is better to wait with harvest until the plant begins to bloom, when tiny leaves contain the most flavor and the oil and drying at this time will preserve its fragrance, aroma, and flavor. The leaves and flowers are now full of aromatic oils that will release in sauces, marinades, stews, or soups. Its aroma will flavor vegetables or meat in many dishes. When harvesting mature rosemary plants with a lot of woody stems use the garden shears instead of scissors.
Video – Harvesting Rosemary
Here is a video of me harvesting my rosemary bush that I grew from cuttings
Tools you need
Harvesting is a simple process, you just need a pair of scissors for new stems or garden pruners for woody stems as in the above photo.
In my next article, I will tell you how to dry rosemary and how to harvest rosemary seeds – how to pick seeds from rosemary flowers to save them for seeding.