Many of our herbs are flowering: the basils, common thyme, bouquet dill/dill fernleaf, orange mint, purple gomphrena, arrugula, smokey-bronze fennel, french tarragon, camomile, cilantro, lemon mint, summer savory, and caraway.
In general, you want to prevent this from happening because it diverts the plant’s energy from producing leaves. What’s more, it changes the taste of the leaf in a sharp, arguably unpleasant way.
There is, however, one very good reason to let your herbs flower. You can save seeds! We can potentially save herb seeds in the same way that Thea has gathered some marigold seeds. It helps to know what to look for!
We can use this info to zip in (superhero style) and save those seeds!
Most garden plants produce seeds either inside a fleshy fruit, in a capsule, in a pod, or within the flower. If you intend to save your seeds, a drooping flower should indicate that the pollination phase is over. At that point, the plant begins to direct its energy toward seed production. Common signs that a seed pod is mature include a rattling sound when you shake it or a change in color from green to darker brown. Try to harvest those mature seeds on a warm, sunny day after the dew has evaporated.
It is best to collect the whole stalk after allowing it to dry on the plant. Then, hang it upside down to dry it more in a paper bag for at least two to three weeks. Be sure to label the seed type and date! Once dry, separate the seed part from the rest of the plant. Secure in a ziplock baggie for next season. If you’d like to cook with some seeds, it is best to store them in a jar.
Sunflower seeds can be saved by clipping the head of the flower after the back turns brown AND the fading flower starts to curl. This often happens during the third week in September. Wildcat Welcome activity, perhaps!?!?!? You can hang the flower upside down to dry from its stem. Place a punctured plastic bag to catch the seeds as they fall. The punctures will allow air in to facilitate the drying process and prevents molding.
Arugula will cross-pollinate. We should be safe though (with respect to the integrity of the next generation) because there aren’t other types of arugula growing within at least a 1/4 mile radius of us! The major risk to saving arugula seeds is that birds go for the drying seed heads. Multiple seed harvests may be necessary to keep up with the 2-3 week cycle of production.
Basil will cross-pollinate with other basil varieties within a 150 foot radius. So we will need to order basil seeds for the sake of supplying our chefs with the traditional basil flavor they want. However, we could easily experiment and plant some of the seeds that will be produced from crosses between our cinnamon-African-lemon-mini basil assortment. In that case, we should look for the seed capsules with four seeds each, let them dry, harvest them, dry them in the paper bag, and then separate the seeds.
For the rest of the flowering herbs listed above, we should keep our eyes peeled for seeds pods. Check out the pictures and see if you can guess where the seeds will form! We can follow the steps above and try the seeds out in our planting next year.
All for now!
Love and Peas,