Rosemary, or Salvia Rosmarinus, is perhaps one of the most popular shrubs out there.
Its needle-like leaves and blue, white, purple, or pink flowers emit a fragrant smell that makes this evergreen stand out.
Besides using rosemary as a spice, you can also take advantage of its beauty by adding it to a bouquet.
Even better, these shrubs are the perfect addition to an herb garden because they are easy to grow.
When to harvest rosemary? Figuring out when to harvest rosemary depends on what you intend to use it for. If you want fresh leaves, harvest them as soon as they mature. On the other hand, those who plan to dry the leaves should harvest them before the rosemary flowers bloom.
How Do You Know When Your Rosemary Is Ready to Harvest?
Rosemary is a versatile plant that’s very easy to grow.
Fresh or dried, you’ll get to enjoy all sorts of benefits from it, and you won’t run out of options to use it.
No matter which preparation method you follow, you have two harvesting options for a rosemary plant.
Rosemary plants grow all year round, provided that they receive the right amount of full sun and care.
You can harvest the fresh green leaves as soon as they’re established or the plant has matured.
You’ll know that the leaves of your rosemary have fully matured when the branches are about eight to 10 inches long.
Harvesting the leaves while the plant is still young may cause a handful of negative effects that will inevitably damage the plant.
Harvesting rosemary and letting them dry allows it to last longer. However, you want to make sure that it still has plenty of nutrients even after drying.
This brings us to the next indicator of when your rosemary is ready to harvest.
If you plan to dry the leaves, wait for the plant to show signs of blooming.
When you see flower buds starting to grow out of the branches, that’s the best time to harvest the leaves.
During this phase, the leaves are full of essential oils. Drying them at this point traps the oil and flavor on the leaves.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Rosemary?
If you don’t plan on using the leaves anytime soon, is it okay to leave the plant alone without harvesting?
What will happen to it if you do so?
Since rosemary is an evergreen plant, it will most likely not wither.
Just be sure to water it regularly and that it receives an adequate amount of sunlight.
The branches will keep growing until they reach about 10 inches tall.
Without harvesting, they will eventually produce flowers with colors ranging from purple to white to red.
Blooming usually happens around early spring to late summer.
Keep in mind that the rosemary plant is not fond of low temperatures.
During winter, you’ll want to bring your rosemary plants indoors and keep them at room temperature.
Otherwise, the extremely cold weather will likely frost the leaves and cause the plant to die.
How to Harvest Rosemary
Now that you know the clear signs of when your rosemary is fully grown, it’s time to learn how to harvest it.
For the best results, follow the steps we’ve listed below.
Step 1: Wait Until Spring
As long as they’ve matured, you can harvest rosemary leaves whenever you need to.
Though, if you don’t have any use for them yet, you can wait until spring or summer.
This is the time when rosemary plants grow quickly.
You will also want to trim the plants regularly to support their growth during this time.
Step 2: Choose the Branches for Harvesting
The next step is to choose the branches that are ready for harvesting.
Those that are about eight inches in height or taller are your best options.
If you have several rosemary plants, harvest from one plant first and do the others on the following days.
Doing this guarantees that you always have mature branches to harvest.
Step 3: Cut Off the Top
Once you’ve identified the mature branches, proceed with cutting them.
When doing this, cut the top two inches and leave at least six inches of them intact to the plant.
Cutting the branches too close to the plant will make it difficult for them to grow further.
On the other hand, if you only need a few pieces of fresh herbs, you can just pick them off the branch without cutting them.
Step 4: Leave 3/4 of the Bush
Lastly, make sure that you leave at least 3/4 of the rosemary bush when harvesting the leaves.
This will guarantee that the plant continues to grow after harvesting.
Additionally, it would be best to avoid harvesting very close to the winter season.
Otherwise, the plants will take a significantly longer time to regrow.
Harvest the leaves around two weeks before winter hits to ensure they are healthy before the first frost.
Should You Wash Rosemary After Harvesting?
Since you harvest rosemary for its leaves, you don’t really have to wash it as thoroughly as you would with plants that grow underground.
That said, you still want to make sure that it’s free of insects, bugs, or other harmful elements.
For that reason, it would be best to give it a good rinse after harvesting.
Can You Eat Rosemary Immediately After Harvesting?
Rosemary leaves are safe to eat even when it’s raw, but make sure you wash them first.
Doing so will get rid of any bugs, insects, or dirt that are still on the leaves.
Additionally, it would be best only to eat rosemary leaves in small doses
Eating large amounts of rosemary leaves or ingesting too much rosemary oil can cause vomiting, sensitivity to sunlight, allergic reactions, and even uterine bleeding.
If you wish to take rosemary leaves for medicinal purposes, limit your intake to six grams per day.
Anything more than that is potentially unsafe.
How to Store Rosemary Leaves
As mentioned, cutting your rosemary plant daily or weekly during its active season will encourage its growth.
So, what are you supposed to do with all the leaves you get from the harvest?
Obviously, you don’t have to use them all at once.
There are multiple methods of storing rosemary leaves. Below are four of the most common techniques.
Dried rosemary leaves can last for decades, but the flavor will likely be of high quality only during the first year.
To dry your rosemary leaves, don’t pluck them yet. Leave them on the branch and hang them upside down for 10 days.
Make sure that the room is dark but well-ventilated.
After 10 days, separate the leaves from the branches and store them in a container.
Another method of storing rosemary leaves is by using an airtight container.
Moisture is commonly the biggest culprit of fresh foods, and that includes rosemary leaves.
First, wash the branches or sprigs you took from the plant and let them air dry.
Remove the leaves from the sprigs and transfer them to a Ziploc bag or any other airtight container before placing them in the fridge.
The leaves will most likely retain their flavor for up to two weeks, but they will still be good to use for far longer than that.
Aside from drying or storing in an airtight container, you can also freeze rosemary to make it last.
After washing the sprigs or branches, strip off the leaves and place them in an ice cube tray.
Leave plenty of room in each partition, and fill it with fresh water or olive oil to submerge the leaves.
Then, place the tray directly into your freezer.
Alternatively, you can remove the rosemary cubes from the tray and transfer them into a Ziploc bag before storing them in the freezer.
This way, you can still use your ice cube tray for other purposes.
Lastly, you can store your rosemary leaves by using vinegar or olive oil.
What we like about this storage method is that it does not require freezing.
To do this, wash the sprigs first and let them air dry or use a paper towel to get rid of the moisture.
While waiting, grab an empty bottle or container that you don’t use very often.
Once the Sprigs are dry, strip off the leaves or take the whole sprigs and place them in an empty container.
Pour vinegar into the container to your desired amount or until the leaves are submerged in the liquid.
You can also add other ingredients to the mixture, like chili pepper or fresh garlic.
Make sure that the container has an airtight lid. Otherwise, air will cause mold to develop inside and ruin your rosemary.
Rosemary is arguably one of the best shrubs you can grow at home.
The most important part of growing one is knowing when to harvest its leaves.
Done correctly, you will be able to get the best flavor and aroma out of this popular herb.
You can use its fragrant leaves for plenty of purposes, and they’re relatively easy to store.
In fact, even the flowers of a rosemary plant are edible. You can eat them raw or add them to a dish to give it a more delicate flavor.