This past spring, I planted three herbs–basil, cilantro and mint–imagining the fresh flavours in my meals all season long. However, in the last few weeks, they've all grown flowers on top. My poor cilantro completely fell over from the weight and my basil just doesn't seem as bushy or yummy-looking. Sigh. My herb-infused culinary creations will have to wait until I figure out if they're still edible. Furthermore, can I cut back the flowers without damaging the plants?
Here's what Anne Marie had to say about the fate of the most fragrant end of my garden.
Some herbs are still quite useable even after they start to flower but others get too strong or woodier once this takes place. For most, frequent harvesting make the plants bushier and produce more harvestable stems.
Mint is usable before and after it flowers. In fact, mint can be collected and dried as the flowers begin to open. Young, tender stems before flowering are better than the older, woodier, bitter stems. Use the leaves dried or fresh.
Basil should be used when young before it goes to flower. You can stall the flowering by pinching out the flower buds whenever you see them. This will help create a bushier plant and promote more side growth. Basil stops producing nice leafy growth when it flowers. It is best to use fresh basil or cut it for drying up until just before the flowers open.
Cilantro should be harvested before the plant goes into flower. I don't know of any way to delay this from happening. It usually starts flowering once the weather gets hot. Or let it flower and harvest the seeds as coriander in late summer.
Ok, better luck next year with my basil and maybe I'll whip outside tomorrow and see about collecting my own coriander. That sounds promising.
But will my edible plants make it through the winter? Stay tuned!