How to Harvest Rosemary Without Killing the Plant

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So, you want to grow and use fresh rosemary for your cooking, but you’re not sure how to harvest it without killing the plant.

If you harvest too much, you risk stunting the growth of the plant or even worse, killing it completely. Doing this could mean all your hard work in caring for the plant will be for nothing! 

Rosemary is an evergreen herb with beautiful green leaves that resemble pine needles. Full-size plants are the size of a small bush, although they will generally live happily in a good-sized pot if you want to grow rosemary indoors. Just make sure to fill your pot with well-drained soil as it doesn’t like ‘wet feet’.

Rosmarinus officinalis as it’s scientifically named, will grow well from early spring through the first frost, and here in Georgia, it overwinters fairly well, although it becomes dormant in the cold weather.

Want to learn how to keep your plant intact while you stock up on fresh rosemary? That’s why we wrote this helpful article about how to harvest rosemary without killing the plant!

In just a few quick steps, you can have a thriving rosemary bush that provides delicious herbs for months to come. Whether you want a large harvest or just a few whole sprigs for your next meal, keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

hands holding pruning sheers and trimming a rosemary plant

Quick tips for growing a thriving rosemary bush

First things first. You don’t want to harvest your rosemary if your plant is already struggling to survive. So, here are a few tips for growing more rosemary than you will ever need in your life:

  • Plant your rosemary in a light, sunny spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Use high-quality potting soil with plenty of organic nutrients. I like mushroom compost or aged cow manure for an added boost. Just make sure the soil isn’t too heavy. You want it to drain well.
  • Make sure you water the rosemary plant frequently but don’t overdo it – too much water can cause root rot.
  • Prune your rosemary plant regularly to help stimulate new growth and promote bushier plants.
  • Add a layer of mulch around the plant’s base to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Freshly harvested herbs with old antique scissors on wood background. Fresh rosemary leaves

How to harvest rosemary without damaging the plant

Now that you have a healthy, thriving rosemary plant, it’s time to learn how to properly harvest it without killing the whole plant. How do you pick rosemary so it keeps growing despite your harvesting? Here are some simple tips:

  • Always use clean, sharp shears when harvesting rosemary. Dull scissors will cause damage to the plant. Invest in a pair of dedicated herb shears so your kids don’t steal them for their art projects.
  • Harvesting rosemary should be done in the morning while the dew is still on the plant – this will help ensure you’re getting fresh, flavorful herbs.
  • When cutting away sprigs, be sure to leave about two inches of growth below the cutting point. This will allow for continued growth and regrowth after harvesting.
  • Only harvest a third of the plant’s foliage at one time – this will help ensure that your rosemary bush stays healthy.

closeup of rosemary growing in a garden

What time of year to harvest rosemary?

You will want to wait a few weeks or so after planting to harvest your rosemary. Give it a chance to adjust to its new environment.

However, as soon as your rosemary plant is at least six inches tall, it’s ready to go. So get out there and start snipping away. Your rosemary bush will thank you for it by producing even more rosemary for you to use. The more you harvest, the faster it grows so for a bountiful harvest, cut rosemary back regularly.

Rosemary is a frost-resistant herb, so you can plant it early and it will thrive until the snow sets in.

Will Rosemary grow back after harvesting?

Yes! Your rosemary plant will regrow after harvesting as long as you leave enough of the woody stems and leaves intact. So, you don’t have to worry about killing your plant every time you harvest.

A few weeks after you snip off those woody stems, you will begin to see new growth. The new, softer tips will harden up after they have been growing for a while. My rosemary plant grows fairly vigorously in the spring and summer.

Mature rosemary plants are generally very fast-growing plants so you can harvest rosemary every few weeks without damaging the plant itself.

While I have seen some full-sized plants with rosemary flowers on them, my plants have never flowered. Rosemary flowers supposedly have a lovely flavor with a touch of sweetness, although I have never tried them myself.

fresh rosemary in a bottle of olive oil on a table

Ways to use fresh rosemary

Once you harvest rosemary, you need to figure out what you are going to do with it. Here are a few ways to use fresh rosemary:

  • Add rosemary sprigs to soups, stews, and roasted vegetables for a delicious herb flavor.
  • Mix finely chopped rosemary into salads or sprinkle it over roasted potatoes for an extra kick of flavor.
  • Mash whole rosemary leaves with olive oil and garlic to make a savory spread. You can also use this mixture to marinate meats and veggies.
  • Infuse rosemary sprigs into honey for a simple yet flavorful topping for toast or yogurt.
  • Infuse olive oil with rosemary for a delicious addition to your next stir fry.
  • Make homemade compound herb butter. A few leaves of rosemary, along with other herbs make a delicious and flavorful butter for spreading on rolls.
  • Dry rosemary is a great addition to salt blends. Check out my post on how to make rosemary salt for more information.
  • Add a few stems to meat dishes like stew for a rich and delicious flavor.
  • Dry rosemary can be used to make your own bug repellent. Add 1 cup of dried rosemary to a quart of water, boiling it in a pot for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Then, strain the rosemary out of the water and pour it into a large container. This can be poured into an amber glass spray bottle and used as a bug repellant.

Now that you know how to harvest rosemary without killing the plant, as well as ways to use the herbs, you can get busy playing in the kitchen with your freshly harvested stems of fragrant rosemary.

fresh rosemary bound with twine for drying

How to preserve rosemary for later use

While the aromatic oils are the most vibrant in fresh herbs, freshly cut rosemary will only last so long. When fresh use isn’t an option, you need a backup plan.

Once your plant begins showing some vigorous growth, it’s time to learn how to store rosemary for long-term use. Keep in mind that you should use freshly harvested rosemary for preserving or you won’t get quite the same flavor.

You have a few options for preserving fresh rosemary. The best way to store rosemary is by drying it. This can be done in the oven at a very low temperature on a baking sheet or in a dehydrator. You can also hang it upside down for about two weeks until dry and brittle.

If you live in a humid climate air drying may be tricky since you may end up with mold. Here in the humid south, I can’t air dry mine and use the dehydrator. I have a Cosori food dehydrator and have been very happy with it. Make sure it is completely dry before storing it.

You can also freeze rosemary if you want to enjoy using it year-round. Just mince the fresh sprigs and add them to an airtight container or bag. Frozen rosemary will last quite a while but use it within 6 months or so for the best flavor.

Now that you know how to store it, you can have access to fresh rosemary all year round. Enjoy incorporating this flavorful herb into your meals and relish in your harvest.

dried rosemary in a jar on a wood surface with fresh rosemary around it

Ways to Store Rosemary

Store dried rosemary in an airtight container just like you would other herbs. Keep it away from direct sunlight or sources of heat. To get the most flavor, replace your dried rosemary every year.

Store fresh rosemary in the refrigerator. Wrap it loosely with a damp paper towel and store it in a plastic bag or container. This will help keep it from losing too much moisture and wilting quickly.

Now that you know how to harvest rosemary without killing the plant and how to store it, you can enjoy this delicious herb all year long! Whether you’re adding it to a savory dish or making a soothing cup of rosemary tea, your home-harvested herbs will make everything taste delicious!

If you are new to herb gardening, check out my beginner herb gardening tips for more useful info on growing your own herbs.

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