Some Common Herbs

Basil, coriander and dill are annuals parsley is a biennial, flowering in its second year of growth.

Basil flowers are insect pollinated, and different varieties flowering within around 150' of one another may cross. On a garden scale, if you want to grow several types of basil, just keep picking the flower stalks off of all the varieties apart from the one that you want to grow for seed. Once several flower spikes have set and the flowers have started to wither, mark those spikes for saving seed from, and you can then allow the other varieties to flower. The seeds are ready to collect when the spikes turn brown and dry out. Don't worry about the seeds dropping out - they are well attached, and actually need quite a lot of rubbing to free from the dead flower heads.

With both coriander & dill, to get the best seed for sowing in future years, pull up and discard the earliest plants to bolt, and only save seed from those plants that produce plenty of leaf and flower late. It is best to plan to save seed from early summer sowings, to allow plenty of time for the seed to mature and dry on the plant. Harvest as soon as the seed is brown and dry, as it does tend to drop from the seed heads. Rub the heads together in your hands over a bucket to free the seed. Dill seed usually comes cleanly away from the seed heads. Coriander seed tends to contain more chaff, but you can winnow it by pouring gently from one bucket to another in a light breeze if you want to clean it for kitchen use.

To save parsley seed over winter at least two or three plants. In warmer areas mulch heavily with straw or cover plants with a frame, elsewhere grow a few plants in a greenhouse. The next spring, the plants will start to flower and produce seed. Flat and curly leaved varieties will cross, as the flowers are insect pollinated, so you should only grow one type for seed at a time. Harvest the seeds from individual flower-heads as they dry and turn brown, as they tend to drop from the plant when ready. More information can be found under our section ‘Seed Cleaning and Drying’ on our website.