If you’ve ever planted mint, then you know that it is one abundant and determined little plant. Going into our new garden this year I bought a ton of it to place in pots around the perimeter of our garden to help with pest management. I knew it had to be in pots, because of its penchant for spreading weed like through a garden. Unfortunately, the previous owner had less qualms about this.
As my garden began to come in for the first time I was watching for what plants may already be existing. Tons of yarrow sprung up, and abundant purslane and mullein are also present. There are several lovely Hollyhocks, an unwanted scrub oak that I can’t seem to kill and mint. It lines every single one of the top beds and the upper path as well. I removed the plants that looked like they might impede garden growth, and let the rest go wild. Now, needless to say, I have an abundance of mint to harvest!
How to Harvest Mint
The best part about harvesting mint is that there is no trick to it! You can collect fresh mint leaves at any time, but the optimal harvesting time is after the plant has reached a minimum of 4” in height and just before the plant starts flowering.
If you only need a few leaves, you can pluck them individually, or can harvest larger crops by cutting the sprigs or stems just above the leaf nodes where new leaves emerge. If you want your mint to keep growing after harvest, take care not to remove more than ⅔ of the plant or you could send it into shock.
How to Store Fresh Mint
There are two ways to store fresh mint for short-term use.
On the counter - place the stems in a glass with 1 ½” of water and cover loosely with a plastic bag to keep humidity. They will last for three to seven days
In the fridge - wrap mint sprigs in a damp paper towel and place them in an unsealed plastic bag They should last up to fourteen days.
How To Dry Mint
Dried mint will never be able to compete with its fresh counterpart in terms of aroma or flavor, however, drying mint leaves is an excellent way to store mint for the long term. Hang drying or air drying is the best option to preserve the flavor of your mint.
Wash the stems with cold water before drying the mint. Hang mint in small bunches in a cool dark place. It will take 1 - 2 weeks to dry. Once dry and crumbly remove the leaves from the stem and place them in a mason jar for storage. For best results add a moisture absorbing packet to the jar to remove any remaining moisture. Properly dried and stored mint can retain the strength of its fragrance and flavor for up to 3 years but the best flavor will be within the first year.
How To Freeze Mint
If dried mint isn’t your thing, you can opt to freeze mint for later use. Below are two different methods to try depending on your preference.
Method #1 Rough-chop the mint leaves and tightly pack them into ice cube trays. Add just enough water to act as a binder between the leaves, then freeze. Once frozen the mint ice cubes can be removed from the tray and put placed in a freezer storage bag. These ice cubes can be used in iced tea, recipes, and more.
Method #2 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay whole mint leaves out in a single layer. Freeze for 2-3 hours or until completely frozen, then transfer the leaves to a freezer bag.
How to Use Fresh Mint
Make a refreshing mint tea - Place crushed or whole mint leaves in a mug and top with boiling water. Allow to steep for five minutes, sweeten if you like, and enjoy.
Chocolate-dipped mint leaves - these make a perfect after-dinner treat and couldn’t be simpler to make. Get the details over on toriavey.com
Mint pesto - With mint, parsley, and almonds, this is a refreshing take on a classic. Whip up this Mint Pesto from simplyrecipes.com.
Make a Mojito - A classic summertime cocktail with muddled mint, sugar, rum, soda water, lime juice, and fresh lime. We love this recipe from 40aprons.com that lets you whip them up by the pitcher!
There are probably a million uses and recipes for fresh, dried, or frozen mint. What are some of your favorites? Tell us all about them in the comments below and as always,