Harvest herbs regularly at this time of year to enjoy them at their very best, taking care to pick at the right time of day to make sure they’re packed full of fragrance and flavour.
There’s always room for a few more herbs in your garden: if you haven’t room for a separate herb garden you can pick up a few plants from our garden centre here in Mullingar right now and they’ll be happy in containers, or tucked into spare corners under the roses.
Fill your garden with herbs and you can enjoy one of the great pleasures of a midsummer morning: wandering outside to gather fistfuls of sweetly scented foliage. You can pluck a sprig of peppermint or rosemary for a pick-me-up morning tea; or perhaps a bunch of lavender to hang upside down to dry and perfume the hall.
But whether you're picking for stewing, brewing or strewing, you'll get the best flavours when your herbs' essential oils - the ones which carry the flavour and fragrance - are at their most concentrated.
Look for sturdy young sprigs of new growth, still pale and fresh; if you're picking flowers, select those just opening their buds. Never cut into old, brown wood, especially lavender and rosemary which won't regenerate.
Pick early in the morning, as the plants are at their most succulent after absorbing moisture all night. Once the sun hits the leaves the oils start evaporating, which smells nice if you're walking past but your herb harvest will be a shadow of what it should be.
And make sure you pick often - at least once a week - to keep leafy herbs productive, as they'll bolt and stop producing leaves if you neglect them. If you can't use them fast enough, give your plants a haircut with scissors instead.