Mint is one of those plants that, if you take care of it, will flourish, and when I say flourish, I mean you will have more mint than you know what to do with. But don’t worry; we have you covered. This article will take you through how to harvest mint so you have the freshest, best-tasting leaves and all the methods you can use to preserve and store your mint for later uses.
Mint is a Must Have Herb For Your Herb Garden
Mint is a versatile and easy-to-grow herb widely known for its refreshing aroma and distinctive taste.
From adding a zesty kick to beverages and salads to soothing indigestion, mint is a must-have herb for any home gardener.
Numerous mint varieties are available, each with its unique flavor and characteristics. Some popular types include:
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) – Known for its sweet and mild flavor, spearmint is an excellent variety for cooking and beverages.
- Peppermint (Mentha × Piperita) – With a more robust methanol flavor, you can use peppermint in teas, candies, and as a natural remedy for various ailments.
- Chocolate Mint (Mentha × piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’) – As the name suggests, this variety offers a subtle chocolate aroma, making it a delightful addition to desserts and beverages.
- Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens) – With a fruity undertone, apple mint adds a unique twist to your favorite recipes and summer drinks.
- Learn More: Check out our complete guide on the different types of mints and their uses.
There are so many things you can do with mint plants:
- Fresh mint tea
- Mint lemonade
- Mint cocktails (e.g., mojito)
- Mint-infused water
- Fruit salad garnish
- Mint jelly
- Mint chutney
- Mint vinegar
- Mint syrups
- Mint essential oils
- Potpourri and sachets
- Natural air fresheners
- Bath and skincare products
- Oral hygiene products
- Insect repellent
- Medicinal uses (e.g., aiding digestion, relieving cold symptoms)
- Culinary garnish
Importance of Proper Harvesting Techniques
Proper harvesting techniques are essential to maintain the health of your mint plant and ensure a continuous supply of fresh, flavorful leaves. If you harvest mint correctly, you will:
- Encourage new growth and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy or woody.
- Maximize the flavor, aroma, and nutritional benefits of the leaves.
- Preserve the aesthetic appearance of the plant.
- Prevent the spread of diseases or pests.
Benefits of Growing and Harvesting Your Mint
We’re always talking about the benefits of homegrown food and herbs, and there are many reasons why:
Home Grown is Far Cheaper Than Grocery Store Bought
Growing and harvesting your mint can save you money in the long run. Mint plants are relatively low-maintenance and can thrive in various conditions, making them a cost-effective choice for home gardeners.
By growing your supply, you no longer need to buy expensive store-bought herbs or worry about running out of fresh mint when you need it for a recipe.
Freshness and Flavour Are Superior
There’s nothing quite like the taste and aroma of freshly harvested mint. When you grow and harvest your mint, you can be sure you’re using the freshest and most flavorful leaves.
Store-bought mint can lose potency and freshness over time, but homegrown mint provides much better flavor.
No Nasty Pesticides
Unless you are buying organic mint at the grocery store (spendy!), you don’t know what pesticides were used. When you grow your own at home, you know exactly what is on those leaves and have much more control over what chemicals you and your family are ingesting.
Health benefits: Thanks to its high antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, mint offers numerous health benefits. Some of the health benefits associated with consuming mint include:
Improved digestion: Mint has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for indigestion and stomach discomfort. Its soothing properties can help relieve symptoms such as bloating, gas, and cramps.
Enhanced oral health: The natural antibacterial properties of mint can help combat bad breath and promote good oral hygiene.
Relief from colds and congestion: The menthol found in mint can help alleviate symptoms of congestion and relieve colds and respiratory issues.
Reduced stress and anxiety: The calming aroma of mint is known to help reduce stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation and mental clarity.
Best Time to Harvest Mint
There are a few quick tips for harvesting mint that revolve around timing:
Ideal Growth Stages For Harvesting
To ensure the highest quality and flavor, harvesting mint at the correct growth stage is essential. The best time to harvest mint is when the plant is mature and has plenty of healthy leaves, but before it starts to produce flower buds.
Once mint begins to flower, the energy is redirected towards producing seeds, resulting in less flavorful leaves. Therefore, harvesting mint when it has reached a height of 3-4 inches, with a good number of mature leaves, will yield the best results.
Time of Day for Peak Flavor
For the best flavor and aroma, harvesting mint leaves in the morning is recommended, shortly after the dew has evaporated. During this time, the essential oils responsible for mint’s characteristic taste and smell are at their highest concentration.
Harvesting in the morning ensures you’ll capture the most potent and flavorful leaves for your recipes and remedies.
Necessary Tools for Harvesting Mint
Only a few simple tools are required for harvesting mint:
- Pruning shears or scissors
- Collection basket or container
- Optional: garden kneeler or knee pads
How to Harvest Mint
Here are the step-by-step instructions for harvesting mint so you have the best leaves for drying and storing:
Harvest from Healthy, Mature Mint Plants
Begin by identifying mint plants in your garden that are healthy and mature. Look for plants with vibrant green leaves and sturdy stems, free of any signs of disease or pest infestation.
Avoid harvesting from plants with yellowing leaves or other signs of stress, as these may not provide the best flavor or aroma.
Choose the Best Stems for Harvesting.
Once you’ve located a healthy plant, choose hardy stems with plenty of leaves for cutting. You will want to cut off each stem’s top 3-4 inches for the most flavourful mint leaves.
Clean and Sanitize Cutting Tools
Before harvesting, ensure that your cutting tools, such as pruning shears or scissors, are clean and sanitized. Sanitized tools help prevent the spread of diseases and provide a clean cut that won’t damage the plant.
You can sanitize your tools by wiping them down with rubbing alcohol or a solution of bleach and water.
Use Proper Cutting Techniques
Where do you cut mint when harvesting?
To harvest mint, use your shears or scissors to make a clean cut just above a leaf node or set of leaves on the stem. Cutting above a node will encourage the plant to produce new growth and branching, ultimately leading to a bushier and more productive plant.
Be gentle when handling the mint to avoid prematurely bruising the leaves and releasing their essential oils.
Collect Leaves or Stems Loosely in a Basket or Container.
As you harvest the mint, place the stems or leaves in a clean basket or container. Ensure the container is large enough to hold the mint without crushing the leaves, which can affect the flavor and aroma. If you’re harvesting large varieties of mint, consider using multiple containers to prevent overcrowding.
Gently Rinse and Dry Mint Leaves
After harvesting, gently rinse the mint leaves under cool, running water to remove dirt or debris. Once clean, place the leaves on a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and gently pat them dry.
Be careful not to crush or bruise the leaves while drying, as this can release their essential oils and reduce their potency. Once the mint leaves are dry, use them freely in your favorite recipes, remedies, or for preservation.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Mint?
Mint has a vigorous growth habit allowing for a harvest multiple times throughout the growing season. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect to harvest mint every 4-6 weeks from spring until the first frost in the fall.
Regular harvesting encourages bushier growth and prevents the plant from becoming too leggy or woody. However, it is essential to avoid over-harvesting to allow the plant to recover and produce new growth.
Generally, only remove one-third of the plant’s foliage at a time.
Preserving Your Mint Harvest
There are a few ways to store mint for later uses:
Refrigerating Fresh Mint Leaves
You can store your freshly harvested mint leaves in the refrigerator to keep them fresh temporarily. First, gently wrap the mint leaves in a slightly damp paper towel, making sure not to crush their leaves.
Place the wrapped leaves in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container, and store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. This method will keep the dried mint leaves fresh for up to a week.
Freezing Mint Leaves
For more extended storage, consider freezing your mint leaves. There are a few ways to do this:
Ice Cube Method:
Finely chop the mint leaves and place them in an ice cube tray. Fill each compartment with water, covering the mint leaves, and freeze until solid.
Once frozen, transfer the mint ice cubes to a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container and store them in the freezer. This method is ideal for adding mint to beverages or recipes that require a small amount of water.
Whole Leaf Method:
Gently rinse and dry the mint leaves as described earlier. Lay the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze for a few hours or until completely frozen.
Transfer the frozen leaves to a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container and store them in the freezer. This method allows you to grab a few leaves at a time quickly.
Drying Mint for Long-term Storage
Drying mint is an excellent option for long-term storage, and there are several ways to do this:
Gather small bundles of mint stems and tie them together with a piece of string or twine. Hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.
The mint leaves should be dehydrated within 1-2 weeks, depending on the humidity in your area. Once the fresh stems are dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.
Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature, usually around 170°F (75°C). Gently rinse and dry the mint leaves as described earlier. Place the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and place the sheet in the oven.
Prop the oven door open slightly to allow moisture to escape, and leave the mint to dry for 1-2 hours or until the leaves are dehydrated and crumbly. Keep a close eye on the leaves during drying to avoid burning them. Once dry, store the leaves in an airtight container.
Regardless of the preservation method, store your mint leaves in a cool, dark, and dry place to maximize their shelf life and maintain their flavor and aroma.
- Learn More: See our complete guide on how to dry fresh herbs.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Mint Plant
We have a complete guide on growing and caring for mint plants that you may find helpful. In the meantime, here are the basic guidelines for growing healthy, robust mint plants.
Provide Adequate Water and Sunlight
Mint plants require consistent moisture and well-draining soil. Therefore, water your mint regularly, ensuring the ground remains moist but not soggy. Additionally, mint plants prefer partial to full sunlight, so provide at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth.
Pest Control and Prevention
Mint is pest-resistant but can still attract pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Regularly inspect your mint plants for signs of problems. Use natural pest control methods, such as releasing beneficial insects, applying insecticidal soap, or using homemade remedies like diluted dish soap spray.
Fertilization and Soil Requirements
Mint grows well in well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. To improve its nutrient content and drainage, you want to amend the soil with lots of organic matter, like compost.
And you will want to feed your mint plants with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season to support healthy, lush growth.
I’ve seen a few folks harvest mint simply by ripping and tearing leaves out of the garden, and yes, that works, but it does cause problems. Squishing and bruising the mint will cause bitterness, ripping leaves will damage the plant and possibly impede extra harvests, and poor harvesting practices will generally make your mint plants look shabby.
But if you practice proper harvesting techniques, your mint plants will provide you with healthy harvests many times over the growing season and for many growing seasons.
Also, if we have yet to convince you to grow your own mint, we have one last reason we think might persuade you, just one simple word … mojitos.