| Grow, nurture, pick
ANNUALS It’s best to buy annual herbs such as dill and cilantro as seeds. They are generally harvested within two to three months after planting. You can buy them as plants, but the herbs won’t be as hardy. Just remember to harvest them before they go to seed, when their leaves tend to lose flavour. For a fresh supply, replant every two to three weeks from late spring into early or mid-August. To harvest, snip off leaves or pull out entire plant.
PERENNIALS For perennial herbs such as French tarragon, sage or thyme, buy small plants. (If you grow them from seed, you’ll have to wait a season or two before they’re big enough to harvest.) Allow the plants a couple of months of growth before harvesting. They should be ready mid-summer.
SOIL AND SUN Whether you’re planting herbs in a garden or on your balcony, use well-drained soil and make sure they have at least six hours of full sun daily. Some herbs enjoy part shade (see Top 10 herbs) and others, such as mint, prefer moist soil. All young herbs require regular watering until their roots are established.
When it’s time to harvest the herbs, snip off a portion with sharp scissors, pruners or a knife. Never tear or pull a stem off – this can injure the plant or dislodge the roots. Avoid removing too many leaves or stems at one time – plants need leaves to grow and thrive, so keep 15 centimetres of growth intact. Once herbs are established, prune them regularly to promote lush new growth, which has the best flavour.