First Harvest: Catnip

I’d been noticing over the last week that the catnip plant was starting to get a little out of control, but every time I was home it was either raining or dark. Fortunately, Mother Nature decided to cut us all a break and give us a weekend full of sun. That meant I was out on the stoop first thing Saturday morning with a pair of scissors.

Catnip leaves spread out on the drying racks

I ended up cutting away a lot of woody, leggy stems and throwing them out (along with a spider that had decided the plant was a good anchor for one of its webs). But there were enough nice, tender leaves among the trimmings to allow me to be picky about the ones I was going to dry. And picky I was: you can see here that I only chose intact leaves that were specific sizes, and that I tried to keep similar sizes together.

The longest part of the process was pulling the leaves from the stems. I had my scissors handy but ended up plucking most of them off with a fingernail. Although most drying instructions say the stem should be cut off from the leaf, I prefer to leave just a little bit of stem on as a way for me to check the dryness later. Generally, when the stem breaks off at a touch, the leaf is dry; and it’s rare for stems to be toxic.

Stacked and ready to start drying

Emily initially sniffed at the fresh sprigs I pulled out to give to her, but I came back later to discover she was only posturing. She snacked on the leaves for most of the weekend and gave me extra cuddles to say thank you.

Once the leaves were stacked in the dryer, I ran it for about forty minutes and checked. Some of the stems were still springy so I turned the dryer on for another twenty minutes. This also was a time to curse my inability to smell: there is really no way for me to tell if anything is starting to scorch. After a third run of fifteen minutes, the leaves’ edges were all curled up and the stems broke easily, so I decided to go ahead and call the process done.

The catnip is now roughly crumbled and in an airtight spice jar. We’ll see if I managed to time everything out correctly to remove all of the moisture without removing all of the taste. Wish me luck!

Dried catnip ready to be crumbled into a spice jar

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