Vermont Garden Journal: Harvesting Herb Seeds

This time of year it's usually a battle to keep my herbs from going to seed. We all know herbs like basil produce more and bigger leaves if you can slow the march toward flower and seed formation. But sometimes it's best to work with nature, instead of against it. Some herbs, such has dill, fennel and cilantro, produce seeds that are not only edible, but desirable. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander, a favorite in Indian and other ethnic dishes. Dill seed is used in cooking and to make pickles, while fennel seeds are used in teas, breads and soups and it a good digestive. I sometimes eat a small handful of raw fennel seeds to soothe an upset tummy.

Plus, these flower and seed heads are favorites of a multitude of beneficial insects. It's good for your garden ecology, too. So let some herbs go to seed and start collecting. Here's how.

The key with collecting the seeds is to be ready to catch the seeds before they fall. Select the healthiest looking herb plants with the biggest heads. Once the flowers have faded and the green seeds turn brown, cover the seed head with a paper bag and cut the stalk below the bag. Bring the bag indoors, poke a few holes in it for ventilation and as they seeds dry and mature they will drop off the flower head. Shake the bag periodically to accelerate this process.

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