Home
Author Bio
Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs
       
Growing & Selling  
                Fresh-Cut Herbs
Click on the writer
to order an
AUTOGRAPHED copy
of Growing & Selling
Fresh-Cut Herbs
     
Herb of the Month
Questions and Answers
Links


Speaker
 

Past Herbs Featured


Consultant
 

 

Akkiakwe on
Ebay

 

Site Index

Home

Author Bio Biographical statement from the author of Growing and Selling Fresh Cut Herbs.

Speaker
Sandie is a speaker
that will bring a wealth
of information to any
event.

Consultant
Learn how to grow
herbs efficiently

Growing and Selling
Fresh-Cut Herbs

Looking for a great gift for that favorite gardener? Here you'll find out where to buy this book or how to
order it online.

Cooking with the Herb Ladies.
Recipes and herb tips from Farmer's Market 2000

Herb of the
Month

Check here each
month for a new herb, featuring: growing,
care and uses.

Questions and Answers
Send your questions to the author by e-mail. They will be answered personally and may be included on this page for others to read.

Links
Here you can order Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs, see media and book reviewers' comments, check out herb organizations, and visit sites that sell herb seeds, plants, packaging, etc.

Reviews
Read here to find out what readers have to say about Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs

HERB OF THE MONTH

Dear Faithful Visitors and New Visitors:

     The following article appeared in the August 2000 issue of Growing for Market, a newsletter for commercial growers that sell at farmer's market. It will explain why I have not added a new Herb of the Month feature here in the last two months - I've just been too busy! Rest assured, a new herb of the month will be written and placed on this site in the not too distant future so please check back. Visit the Growing for Market website at www.growingformarket.com .

                                                        Sandie Shores

Selling Fresh-cut Herbs at Farmer’s Market

By Sandie Shores

     Selling fresh-cut herbs at a busy farmer’s market can be very lucrative indeed. The demand for fresh herbs is high and continues to grow. Not only have American cooks become aware of the value of using fresh, as opposed to dried, herbs but virtually every ethnic group uses at least one fresh herb in their cuisine. And while the consumer may settle for fresh herbs from the supermarket in the off season, given the choice, most prefer to buy directly from the grower. This is where you can profit!
     Many growers sell the easy to grow annual herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley and dill. However, with the addition of a few of the less common and perennial herbs you can significantly increase your profits. Herbs such as arugula, chives, oregano, sorrel, sage, French tarragon and thyme will sell at your market when the customers discover that you offer them. If you learn how to manipulate the growth patterns of the various herbs so that you can maintain a continuous supply you will be money ahead. For instance, you can grow cilantro during the hot summer months by choosing the right microclimate in your fields and making succession plantings every week.
     It is also in your best interest to learn what ethnic groups are in your area, what herbs they use in their cuisine and how to cater to their needs. For instance, in Rochester Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic and IBM) our population, and long term visitors, consists of many broad and diverse cultures from around the world. Many growers at our busy Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market have done their homework and grow herbs and produce specifically to supply the needs of the many and diverse cultures. The result of this is, of course, increased profits.
     Herbs, as with most produce, can be difficult to keep fresh when the temperatures are high and they are in direct sunlight. But learning how to keep your herbs fresh can make the difference between selling your herbs and taking them home to dry. Fresh cut herbs are quite perishable and similar to other produce after harvest. They will eventually deteriorate and lose quality. Soaking a whole herb bunch in cold water for 10 minutes can revive herbs that are only slightly wilted. Wilted herbs make a fine addition to the compost pile!
     Bringing a quality fresh cut herb to the market has as much to do with growing a healthy plant as it does with the care given to it during harvesting and beyond.  A healthy, disease and insect free plant will remain fresher and more appealing longer after harvest than one that is moisture and nutrient stressed.
     Proper handling and storage conditions during and after the harvest will also help delay the decaying process. Care should be used in the harvesting process to prevent damage to the herbs. Bruised, or torn, leaves promotes quick deterioration after harvest and are a statement to the consumer of poor quality standards.
     The two most important steps you can take to preserve the freshness and quality of herbs after harvesting are to lower the temperature quickly and prevent moisture loss from the herbs by packaging them as soon as possible. Generally, it is best to not wash herbs but sometimes this can’t be avoided. You don’t want to sell muddy herbs or those with insects on them. The bunched herbs can be very gently swished in cold water and the excess moisture allowed to evaporate before packaging.
     Herbs should be picked the evening before the market and cooled quickly. The exception to this cooling rule is basil. Basil should be held between 45 to 60 degrees as it can turn brown quite quickly at temperatures below that. Harvest herbs that are perfect and have no cosmetic damage from insects. Herbs that are flowering should not be offered for sale, unless a customer requests it for use as garnish material, as flowering herbs have less of the desired foliage and they also tend to be bitter.
     The ideal is to keep the herbs in a cooler and sell from a display of each herb you offer. However, we all know that customers like to see an abundance of fresh herbs and produce if they are to make purchases. Our displays should look full and inviting.
     In years past I have displayed the herb bunches propped up in a small amount of water, much like fresh flowers. My partner, Catherine Osborn (Wildside Herbs and Wildflowers) has developed an easier method of keeping herbs standing upright in water. She places a 10X20 inch large hole flat upside down in a standard sized cooler. The cooler is filled with water to the level of the flat. If the weather is very hot ice cubes may be added to the water. The cooler is then filled with bunched herbs with their stem ends between the holes in the flat causing them to stand upright. This keeps them fresh and presents a beautiful display. The cooler is set on small stools in front of the main display table so it is nearly at the level of the table. More herbs are kept in coolers to replace the ones sold from the display. The herbs in the display are misted with water frequently using a spray bottle as added insurance to prevent moisture loss from the foliage. Providing shade is, of course, a major part of keeping the herbs fresh.
     Many customers are anxious to learn about using fresh-cut herbs and it is our job to teach them and increase our sales at the same time. To this end, I came up with the idea of the “recipe of the week”. Each week we offer a new original recipe using fresh herbs and produce in season. We try to use some of the unusual herbs, such as lemon balm and marjoram, in an effort to introduce them to the customer and educate them as to their use. This is also a way to sell herbs that we have in abundance at the time.
     We give away the neatly printed recipe and sell the fresh-cut herbs used in the recipe as well as the individual plants. The recipe fresh-cut herbs are conveniently bunched together and contain more than enough to make the recipe. We use the same bright sign each week with the new recipe pasted on it. This is surrounded with the herb bunches (also sitting in water) and plants and it makes a nice, eye-catching display. We have many customers returning for the recipes and more new people eventually become regular customers each week.
     When developing our recipes we try to consider that many consumers are looking for convenience foods and easy to make new ideas.  We base our recipes on the convenience concept as well as the season. We try not to ask the customers to bake when the temperatures are soaring!
     We offer free samples of the recipe each week but you should check with your own market manager to see if this is legal at your market. Giving away the free samples has increased our business quite a bit but this idea has come back to haunt me! Besides all the work involved in getting ready for market day (you all know what I mean!) we now have to prepare the samples in a large volume too! We take turns developing the recipe and making the samples so this does remove some of the pressure of having to do it all each week. Many of you may not have this luxury.
     When a customer buys more than one kind of herb we ask if these herbs will be used in the same recipe. If not, they are packaged in separate poly bags. Most herbs have strong flavors and/or aromas and if these are allowed to co-mingle it can add an unwanted taste or aroma to food.  The customers appreciate this small gesture of concern and good will. They are most willing to share their recipes with us, which creates friends as well as customers.
     Many times the customers will take the herb bunches from the display themselves. As an added bit of hygiene we pull the poly bag over our hand, the herb bunch is grabbed with the covered hand and the bag is pulled over the bunch and given back to the customer. The customers have often told us how they appreciate the care and concern given to each and every bunch of herbs.
     I love growing and selling the fragrant, useful herbs AND making a profit with them.  I bet you will too! So, grow herbs-you will not only make the world a better place, but you will also be making a profit.
     In a future article we will discuss techniques for maintaining a continuous supply of various herbs and “tricks of the trade” for growing herbs out of their desired season.
     Sandie Shores operated Herb’s Herbs for 10 years in southern Minnesota. She is the author of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs (Storey Books, available from Growing for Market) and now sells organic herbs and produce at the Rochester (MN) Downtown Farmer’s Market and Full Circle, a cooperative that supplies whole foods stores in the Twin Cities. Visit her website at http://www.freshcutherbs.com.


     Click here to see a preview of the Table of Contents for Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs.  Click here to see archived Herb of the Month pages.

The comprehensive revised edition of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs is available from author, most internet booksellers, bookstores, and in libraries.  It can be ordered from the distributor, Independent Publishers Group

 


E-mail your questions, tips or suggestions.
I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Home | Author Bio | Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs |
Herb of the Month | Questions and Answers | Links

Herb's Herbs
PO Box 64
 Zumbro Falls, MN 55991
email 

 

This site hosted and maintained by The Herbal Connection