How to Harvest and Store Catnip
A member of the mint family, catnip is best known for its euphoric effect on cats. It also makes an excellent base for herbal teas and may serve as an addition to salads and flavoring for foods. Catnip works as a sedative, lowers fevers, soothes stomach troubles and clears sinuses. Such a long list of health benefits makes catnip a useful herb to have available.
While catnip is available in cat toys and health food stores, the best way to obtain it is to grow and harvest it yourself. Fortunately, catnip is a hearty and prolific plant that is easy to grow and loves to be harvested.
You may harvest catnip leaves at any time in the growing season. However, the oils that so entrance cats reach their peak when the plant flowers. You can also harvest the flowers and use them like the leaves.
To minimize the chance of the catnip molding instead of drying, wait until any dew has evaporated before harvesting. This means mid-morning or early afternoon is the best time of day to harvest.
Cut entire stems at the base of the plant. This method will provide you with a collection of leaves and flowers to use or dry. Catnip grows quickly and will soon replace any removed plant matter. However, it will replace removed stems more quickly than randomly removed leaves.
Early in the season you can pinch off the tips of shoots to encourage more bushy growth for later harvesting. You can use whatever you pinch off. Dry and save it, or use it fresh. It just won't be quite as strong in scent or effectiveness..
Storing Fresh Catnip
Fresh catnip can entrance cats, make tea, or enhance salads. To keep it fresh a little longer, place it in the refrigerator. However, don't expect it to last more than a few days. If you want fresh catnip for your cat or a recipe, go to your garden and harvest some.
Spread the stems across a drying rack and leave them to dry in a cool, dark area. Alternately, tie the stems in small bunches; hang the bunches, with the flowers downward, in a cool, dark area. When the plants are dry enough to store, a leaf will crumble easily between your fingers.
Storing Dried Catnip
Separate the leaves and flowers from the stems. Dispose of the stems. Crumble the dried leaves and flowers into a bag. Plastic bags with an airtight seal are best to lock moisture out of the dried catnip. Seal all bags.
Store the bags in a cool, dry place, as heat or sunlight will cause the quality of the catnip to degrade. The freezer can also provide an effective place for storage, if you have removed the moisture completely from the catnip. A dark cabinet works well, too.
Dried catnip will last for several months, at least. However, the quality will degrade with time, so you'll want to restock yearly.