Herbs: why they "bolt"

Have you ever had something like this shooting straight up from your herbs? (The above shot is a picture of a bolting sprig on my dill plant.)

I recently discovered this in my italian flat-leaf parsley (below) and started researching what that meant. Afterall, I didn’t think parsley had flowers!

What I discovered is that this is called ” bolting “. What I understand about bolting is that this is the plant’s natural defense mechanism to stay alive. When the growing conditions change (ground temperature rises, the plant is growing in extreme heat conditions, etc) the plant’s natural defense is to move on to the next stage of life… so it bolts. Literally! It sends this shoot straight up in the air, producing these interesting looking pods and goes to seed. It’s so concerned about the next generation (seed) that it does what it can, while it can, to save itself.

Here’s one thing to realize… once it bolts there isn’t much you can do about it. The plant’s energy is all re-directed to this shoot of the plant that the rest of it loses it’s flavor and often times becomes extra “woody” and/or dies off.

We can often times slow down the bolting process by keeping the plant trimmed back (even if we aren’t utilizing all of the plant it needs to be trimmed to promote new growth). Routine trimming also keeps the plant fuller looking.

And the second thing to realize? Almost all herbs (and some green vegetables, like lettuce of broccoli) will eventually bolt. That said, be prepared to harvest the items immediately, take advantage of the seed production and start a new pot from seed and/or purchase a new plant.

It’s the cycle of life… and for us gardeners it’s sad, but it’s ok. We’ll be ok.

(sniff, sniff)

enjoy your time in the kitchen (and your garden) …

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