Known for its peppery aroma, rosemary is a perennial, evergreen shrub whose tips and cuttings serve as a flavor accent in cooking. Whether growing rosemary indoors or cultivating a modest herb crop outdoors, this step-by-step guide will walk you through how to harvest rosemary to keep your foods tasting vibrant year-round.
When to Harvest Rosemary
Before you decide to plant rosemary, it is worth noting that most rosemary growers do not harvest until 15-21 months after planting. Try to harvest most herbs in the morning, just before or immediately after blooming has begun.
This is when the plant has its greatest oil content and flavor. Most climates allow for rosemary harvesting at any time of year. Still, allow the plant to recover between harvests to ensure its survival.
Rosemary plants should also be healthy when harvested, and the biggest risk to your plant is that you will overwater it. As a Mediterranean species, rosemary prefers well-drained soil and conditions which keep the plant and soil dry. So, while you can harvest your plant at virtually any time, ensure that your plant is looking its best before getting your prune on.
How to Harvest Rosemary
Harvesting rosemary depends on several factors besides seasonality, including the age of the rosemary plant. Follow these quick steps to harvest fresh rosemary without any hassle.
Step 1: Determine if Your Plant is Ready for Harvest
The first step before you begin harvesting is to determine which stage of the growth cycle your plant is in. If you plant rosemary seeds, it usually takes up to 15 months before you harvest. Whereas, if you plant a mature nursery plant, you could harvest rosemary within about three months.
Step 2: Plan Your Harvest
If you harvest rosemary by picking individual leaves or breaking stems haphazardly it may interrupt the rosemary plant’s growth patterns to the point that it will not recover.
The rosemary leaf, or sprig, should be seven to eight inches long to ensure that you are not harvesting plant growth that is too new. Once you have determined which mature rosemary leaves you want to harvest, move on to step three.
Step 3: Pinch Stem Nodes
Ppinch stems by hand or use microtip hand sheers while being extremely careful to not injure the plant. Grasp the sprig you wish to harvest about two inches down the sprig, and pinch off just below the leaf or stem node. It’s the point from which the needles grow out of the stem.
Voila! Fresh rosemary.
Step 4: Plant Recovery
Allow your plant to recover by leaving enough time between harvesting rosemary leaves. To prevent overharvesting, cut back no more than ⅓ of your plant at any one time.
Repeat these steps to enjoy year-round fresh herbs.
How to Dry Rosemary
There are a few different options for drying rosemary that depend on whether you have equipment available and whether you need to dry your rosemary quickly. Aside from hang-drying, some herbalists use a dehydrator to dry their rosemary or bake the leaves on low heat until they easily separate from the stem part of the sprig.
While you do not need any specialized equipment to grow and harvest fresh herb, you may find it easier or more visually appealing to use a small hanging herb drying rack to dry your rosemary sprig.
To dry rosemary by hanging, pat the sprigs dry and bunch a few sprigs together with a rubber band or tie. Hang your completed bundles indoors or outdoors for about two weeks until the needles become brittle and begin to fall off.
How to Store Rosemary
There are several ways to store rosemary in the short- and long-term depending on if it is dried or fresh. Fresh rosemary can be stored in a container made specifically for herbs such as the Herb Keeper, which promotes air circulation while maintaining the herb’s hydration levels.
Alternatively, fresh rosemary can be stored in an airtight container or sealable bag and frozen or kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Store dried rosemary in an airtight container or sealed jar. It is best to keep dried rosemary in a cool, dark place away from moisture and humidity.
Even after reading our step-by-step walkthrough, questions may linger about how to harvest rosemary. These frequently asked questions provide more information to help your rosemary plant thrive as a welcome addition to your herb garden.
Does rosemary regrow after cutting?
Rosemary plants do regrow but do not regrow from bare wood so ensure that you do not over prune or harvest your plant more than it can tolerate. When taking a rosemary cutting, it may be preferable to pinch rather than cut your plant to avoid damaging new growth on the sprigs.
To ensure that your plant bounces back from your harvest, cut back no more than ⅓ of your plant at any time. Over time, if your plant becomes overgrown, hard pruning may be necessary, but try to avoid this level of overgrowth to limit damage to your rosemary plant.
How do you harvest rosemary so it keeps growing?
Ensure that you are harvesting rosemary sprigs at least eight inches in length and that you are only taking the top two inches when harvesting.
Do not prune your rosemary plant before exposing it to cold. After pruning, rosemary plants will develop new shoots which are vulnerable to damage from cool temperatures.
What is the best way to harvest rosemary?
The best way to harvest rosemary depends on the unique attributes of your plant, including its last harvest time and purpose. For ideal results, ensure that you follow this guide and are not overharvesting or ‘hard’ pruning your plant.
If you wish to use your plant to make a divine-smelling rosemary essential oil, look to harvest your rosemary plant after blooming has begun when the plant’s oil levels are at their highest. This will ensure the harvested sprigs contain the most concentrated burst of aroma possible to keep your mouth watering.
In this review of how to harvest rosemary without killing the plant, we walked you through all the necessary steps you need to take to harvest your rosemary plant effectively. Whether you are planning your next batch of rosemary oil or a four-course dinner, this guide includes everything you need to keep your plant healthy.