Mint is one of the most loved herbs across the world. It is used in a variety of recipes and has been used even beyond cooking.
While you can just harvest mint straight from your plant and use it directly, you can also harvest mint in bulk and store it so that it stays for much longer and you can use it throughout the year.
How to harvest mint?
Harvesting mint is a very easy process.
If you need mint leaves instantly to use in some recipes or tea, you can just pluck out a few leaves directly from the plant off the stems.
If you want to harvest a large quantity for storing, or if you need a large quantity of mint, cut the stems and leaves using a pair of gardening shears or sharp scissors.
Tip: For large harvests, wait until the flowering buds are beginning to form but have not flowered yet. This is when the flavor is the most intense.
Pick off the yellowing leaves off the flowers and cut the stems just above the first or second set of leaves.
Younger growth is much more flavorful. So make sure that you pick off the newer leaves first. This not only gives you more flavorful leaves but also encourages new growth.
When you regularly prune your mint, the plant will grow bushier with more flavorful leaves.
Avoid cutting off more than 2/3rds of plants as over-harvesting can shock the plants, especially if it is their first harvesting season.
Want to know why your mint leaves turning purple?
How to store fresh mint?
Let us look at the ways of storing mint.
On the counter
You can store fresh mint in some water. This is the easiest way to store mint with the least amount of effort.
- Fill a glass or jar with water.
- Trim the ends of the mint stems.
- Put the mint in the water, just like you would put flowers in a vase.
- Store the mint right on your kitchen counter.
Fresh mint stored this way can last you for up to a week, provided that you change the water as soon as it starts looking dirty.
In the refrigerator
- In a jar:
This is one method that works well, although it requires some effort.
- Fill a small bottle or jar with water.
- Trim the ends of the stems of the mint.
- Place the mint in water like flowers in a vase.
- Place a plastic bag loosely on top of the leaves to cover them but not suffocate them.
- Store it in the refrigerator.
For this method, you will not have to change the water. After a week, the leaves may start to droop a little, but they will stay fresh and usable for up to three weeks.
- Paper towel and plastic bag:
This method also works well and does not use a jar of water.
- Rinse the mint leaves and pat dry.
- Place and wrap the leaves in moistened paper towels. The towels should not be too wet or too dry.
- Place this wrapped mint in a zip-lock bag, but do not seal the bag. Sealing the bag could result in too much moisture being locked inside the bag.
- Keep the bag in the refrigerator to store the mint leaves.
With this method, your mint leaves won’t be as crunchy and crisp as when you harvested them, but they will stay fresh for up to three weeks.
- Paper towel and airtight container:
This method works well because storing the mint in an airtight container ensures that it stays safe and isn’t destroyed by the other items in the refrigerator.
- Rinse the mint leaves and pat dry gently.
- Wrap the leaves in moistened paper towels. The paper towels should not be wet or even damp.
- Place the wrapped leaves in an airtight container.
- Store the container in the refrigerator.
This method works, but because the container is closed, moisture will collect on the leaves over time.
This is why the mint won’t be usable for as long as the other two methods, but you can still use it for up to two weeks.
How to dry mint?
There are several ways of drying mint so that you can store it for a much longer time than fresh mint.
You can dry mint naturally without the help of any appliances.
Bundle together 2 or 3 stems of mint and secure them with a rubber band or string.
Keep the bundles small in size and loose enough that air can circulate freely among the leaves, helping them dry better.
Hang these bundles upside down in a place with good air circulation and preferably no dust. You can also use a paper bag to cover the leaves so that they remain dust-free.
For individual leaves, you can dry them by placing them on drying sheets in a dark place with good circulation.
Check the mint in two to three weeks for dryness. When they are ready, they will crumble in your hands when you crush them.
When the leaves are completely dry, place them in a glass jar with an airtight lid. You can either crush the leaves or keep them whole. Store it in a dark place in the cupboard.
Check the jar after a few days to check for any condensation or moisture inside. If there is, remove the mint and keep it to air-dry again before putting it back for storing.
Food dehydrator method
Wash the mint lightly in cold running water or submerge it in a sink filled with water and swish it and take it out gently.
Drain the water using absorbent towels or by hanging the mint upside down.
Once the mint is dry, pluck the leaves from the stems and place them on a thin layer on the racks of the food dehydrator.
Dry at 105°F (40°C) for three to five hours, or until the leaves become brittle and crumble in your hands when you crush it between your fingers.
Let it fully cool before you store it in jars or containers. Residual heat can later cause condensation or moisture inside the jars. That could spoil the mint.
Once your mint is cleaned, lay them on a paper towel in a single layer. Cover the mint leaves with another paper towel.
Add another layer of mint. Repeat this process until you have five layers. Place it in the oven at 105°F (40°C) until the leaves are completely dry.
Turn the leaves every half hour and keep the oven door cracked open so that the moisture can be let out.
Drying mint in the oven will take just as long as in a dehydrator. Drying a larger amount will take even longer.
Try to do it in smaller batches so that it does not affect the flavor and gets done more quickly.
Once you have stacked the leaves on the tray, set the temperature to warm or just leave the light on. Put the tray in the middle rack of the oven and close the door.
Leave the mint in the oven overnight, undisturbed. The next morning, check the leaves to see if they are dry and crumbly. Store the dried mint in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Place the cleaned leaves on a paper towel and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Check after a minute and add extra time in intervals of 10 minutes if required.
When the leaves are completely dry, you can crush them with a food processor or store it directly in airtight containers.
Keep checking the mint for any signs of moisture and if you spot any, then repeat the drying process. Herbs go bad if exposed to moisture.
Store in a cool, dry place.
How to freeze mint?
You can store mint by freezing it as well. However, the mint will obviously not stay the same as it was when fresh. Frozen mint can still be used to make sauces or drinks.
In ice cubes
To freeze mint into ice cubes,
- Rinse the mint and pat dry them gently with paper towels.
- Chop the leaves.
- Distribute the chopped mint leaves in equal portions in the compartments of an ice tray.
- Fill the tray with water.
- Place the tray in the freezer overnight.
- Remove the cubes and place them in any container or zip lock bags and store them in the freezer.
- Use when required.
Mint ice cubes can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. However, it does not have a lot of uses. Thawing the ice cubes before using will only result in a soggy mint.
It is a better idea to keep the mint in the ice cube form and use the cubes to chill a lemonade or a smoothie.
On baking sheets
On a baking sheet, you can use the entire mint leaves without chopping them up.
This makes it easy to just chop the leaves when you require them instead of thawing them for use.
- Rinse the mint leaves and pat dry thoroughly but gently.
- Spread the leaves on a baking sheet or a plate and put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the mint leaves from the freezer and place them in a freezer bag or airtight container.
- Store it in the freezer and use it when required.
When to harvest mint?
You can harvest mint any time you need the leaves.
But if you want to harvest in bulk, the best time to harvest is when the flowering buds are starting to form, but have not blossomed yet. This affects the flavor of the plant.
During this stage, the essential oils of the mint are at their maximum capacity, making them a lot more flavorful.
Not only the season, but the time of harvest also matters. The best time of the day to harvest mint is in the morning after the dew has evaporated, and before the sun gets too hot.
The heat of the sun can cause the oils to evaporate from the leaves, causing a change in the smell and taste of the leaves.