It is now the time of year when your dill and cilantro plants are going crazy and are flowering and forming seeds. Rather than letting all those good seeds go waste, you can harvest them, dry them, and use them. It is easy, and you end up with wonderful, fresh, aromatic and flavorful seeds to use for cooking, baking, and pickling projects.
I most frequently harvest coriander seeds (from cilantro plants) and dill seeds (from dill plants, duh), but this same technique can be used with any seed forming plant that you want to collect. In fact, harvesting fresh coriander seeds is the only reason I grow cilantro. I really, really dislike cilantro - the smell of fresh cilantro makes me want to gag, the flavor is appalling, and it makes me feel like my throat is closing up. I can deal with it once it has been cooked or dried, but fresh? Blech!!!! I wish I liked it, because in theory, it is such a kick ass herb. But I just can't go there. On the other hand, I absolutely adore coriander. Same plant, different part, totally different responses. Weird, right?
Anyway, here is how to collect seeds, broken down into 1-2-3-4 easy steps.
Seeds are ready for harvest when they are fully ripened and turn brown. While they can be harvested earlier, it requires longer drying time, and the flavor may not be as intense. When the seeds are fully ripe and ready, snip off the seed head of the plant along with a few inches of the stem. Handle the seed heads carefully, as seeds tend to fall off and the seed heads are brittle and fragile.
Put the seed heads in a big paper bag. You have two options. The easiest way is to just toss them in the bag, like I've done here in the photo. You can also bundle the stem ends together and create a bouquet, then tie the bag around the bouquet and hang it from the stem so the bouquet is hanging upsidedown inside the bag. It sounds complicated in writing, but really, it isn't. I swear.
Either way, if harvesting more than one type of seed, use a different bag for each type, unless you want a mix of seeds. Poke a couple small holes near the top of the bag, and fold over the top.
Ignore the bag for a while. This is the easiest part. Seriously, just let the seed heads dry in the bag for a week or so in a dry environment, or more or less time depending on how dry the seeds were when you harvested them and the humidity in your house.
Once seeds heads are totally dry, they should be brown and easily fall off the seed heads. Shake the bag to release seeds from stems. Then open the bag, remove the stems, and pour the seeds out into a container. They are ready to use! Keep in a well-sealed container and use within 6 months for most intense, fresh flavor.
Oh, nature. You and all your bounty, you gorgeous thing you, I'll just never stop loving you.