When should I forage for herbs?
Most herbs have several parts that are edible—as long as they are green—but different parts are good at different times. Initially, the herb will make leaves that are fresh and full of flavor. But eventually the herb will shift its efforts to flowering, often causing the leaves to become bitter and develop a woody consistency—especially if exposed to direct sunlight. Finally, at the end of its cycle, an herb will produce tasty seeds.
When kind of equipment do I need when foraging herbs?
Bring gloves in case you find stinging nettles, a vegetable knife or small pair of scissors for cutting tough stalks without destroying the plant, and bags or containers with lids of different sizes for storage. Finally, bring a backpack or basket to carry everything you harvest.
How do I pick herbs?
When it comes to weeds, you can bring home the whole plant and cut the stalk just above the ground. When picking herbs it is best to snip or cut right above a set of leaves on the stem, so the plant can regrow. Put the parts of the plant in the small bags or containers with a lid, and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight. If you’re storing your harvest in a bag, wrap a wet towel around it to keep the plants cool on the way home.
How do I clean herbs?
Clean the herbs with cold water as soon as you get home, dividing them into several batches for easy cleaning and to avoid squishing each other. A salad spinner makes it easy, but you can also use a strainer under running water. Be careful when cleaning some of the more delicate herbs, so they don’t break. Wash them carefully and put them on a kitchen towel to air dry for half an hour.
Do I need to be careful of anything when foraging herbs?
You can eat most herbs, but they are not all tasty, and a few are poisonous. Study toxic varieties in the area before you pick, and never take an herb if you are in doubt. Ramson, for example, looks a bit like the poisonous lily of the valley. Be particularly careful with plants from the carrot family, which comprises poisonous plants like hemlock, fool's parsley, or cowbane.
How do I store herbs?
Most herbs keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. Put a moist piece of cloth in the bottom of the container, and don't pack the herbs very snug. Some herbs can be dried without losing any flavor, if you want to extend their shelf life. To do this, use a fan-assisted oven with the door open, using the fan but no heat. Turn them once in a while and in a day or two they should be completely dry. At that point, pack them in hermetic containers to avoid any fungus.