Last Updated on December 17, 2020 by Grow with Bovees
Mint is a versatile herb in that it offers a plethora of culinary, nutritional, and medicinal benefits. Mint is also a great addition to teas and other drinks, as a condiment in Middle Eastern and Thai dishes, and a wonderful ingredient for aromatherapy starting from spearmint and peppermint to pineapple and chocolate mint.
Further, this herb works miraculously to provide relief from muscle stiffness and soreness, and indigestion. Growing mint is easy, and in fact, can even be grown in containers indoors, but harvesting mint can be a bit tricky i.e. if you don’t know what you’re doing.
How To Know if Your Mint Is Ready To Be Harvested
There are a few factors to consider when harvesting fresh mint, most notably the right time to harvest this herb! First things first — the quantity of herb you wish to harvest plays a crucial role in whether your mint is ready to be harvested.
There are two types of mint harvesting — gentle and heavy harvesting, where the former simply means plucking out a few leaves every now and then to be used to prepare your mint tea or garnish dishes.
Contrarily, heavy harvesting is much more than just picking out a few leaves, but cutting one-half or one-third of the mint plant, which if not done at the right time can result in permanent shock.
Since plucking a few mint tips can be done at any time of year, this article will focus on heavy herb harvesting. That said, the first thing gardeners take into account is how much their mint has grown when deciding on the right time to harvest the herbs.
Most home gardening experts recommend waiting until the mint plant has grown to at least 3 inches tall before harvesting the herbs. Harvesting when the mint is lower than 3 inches may affect regrowth.
Further, mint plants harvested after 3 inches of growth haven’t developed flowering buds or haven’t blossomed yet, hence are more flavorful and less bitter. When it comes to measuring mint growth, it is important to remember, a mint plant may not always grow upright, but some may also grow haywire.
The age of the herb is another factor to consider when deciding if your plants are ready for harvest. Mint is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for more than one year. During this period, it will soak up essential nutrients — soil, water, sunlight, fertilizer — therefore will become more tolerant towards harvesting.
When you use mint earlier in the growth cycle, you end the supply of nutrients to the roots. This may be detrimental to the herb, especially during the first season of growth, and may cause them to go dormant in the winter.
How to Harvest Fresh Mint
Now to connect the dots, if your mint plant appears to be fully grown, and is grown under artificial conditions such as controlled temperature and artificial light, you can cut it right away when it’s grown to at least 3 inches tall.
You can harvest mint year-round if you’ve grown it under regulated conditions when the plant is well-rooted in the ground, which is typically within four to six weeks after planting.
But if you’re going to be harvesting mint grown in your balcony or any similar unregulated conditions, the last time you should harvest the plant is roughly six weeks before the first frost hits.
Mint can be harvested three to four times per season, but this also depends on the plant’s age. If your mint plant is in its first growing season, then you should harvest mint once or twice during the season
However, mint growing in its second and third season can be harvested several times per year, without affecting its long-term longevity. Next, you should consider the height of the mint, where you can start harvesting by cutting half of each stem once the plant is four inches tall.
If your mint starts to produce small flowers,
The best time to harvest mint is the morning when the plants aren’t wet with dew. This will make it easier to dry the leaves after being harvested. If you’re gently harvesting mint leaves i.e. pinching a few green leaves at once, you should always select the ones at the top, as they are softer and infused with more flavor than the ones growing at the bottom.
Adding to this, it’s also a good practice to cut right above the nodes on which the leaves are growing, as it will encourage new growth faster, given that mint will grow leaves and stem from lateral buds attached to the nodes.
Even if you’re just picking a few leaves from the mint plant, refrain from using your hands, but use a good pair of gardening scissors or shears. Harvesting with your hands may cause unwanted tears, which can welcome infections that can affect the interior of the plant system.
After you harvest your mint, do not rinse it, as it may get moldy, and spread all across the leaves. As an alternative, rinse the leaves a day or so before harvesting, which will give it enough time to dry off.
As mentioned earlier, you should not harvest mint after it blooms, because it will not establish new growth, but harvest when you notice the initial appearance of the flowering buds.
When harvesting, use a suitable pruning tool like these Fiskars pruners or a sharp knife and cut the stems of the mint plants roughly an inch above the soil line. Before harvesting mint, you should spray it with clean water to get rid of any dirt or grime from the leaves and stems. Further, check the leaves and remove any damaged or withered leaves.
How to Store Mint
Mint can be stored for later use by either drying or freezing. Dried mint leaves can be used within a year, use frozen leaves within four months for the best flavor.
Drying and Storing Mint Leaves
This is perhaps the easiest and quickest method of drying and storing mint leaves. To get started, grab a single layer paper towel, and place the mint leaves and sprigs over it. Cover that layer with another layer, and repeat the aforementioned process until you have approximately four to five layers of mint between paper towels.
As a source of heat, you can either leave the oven light on or set the temperature of the oven to “Warm”. Place the layers of mint leaves and the paper towels on a cookie sheet, and place them on a cookie tray. Place the tray in the middle rack in the oven, and shut the door tight.
Leave the mint harvest overnight in the oven overnight, and check on them in the morning. If you can snap the mint leaves in two in the morning or if they’re crisp, and crumbling, store the dried leaves in airtight jars in a dark place.
Using a Food Dehydrator
If you happen to have a food dehydrator, then this is the ideal tool to use to make dried mint.
If you don’t have an oven to dry mint, you can simply make bundles of three to four stems each, and hang them in a dark place, preferably one with good air circulation for about three to four weeks. Check the leaves after this drying period has passed, and store them in airtight containers in a dark place.
How to Freeze Mint Leaves, Make Them Into Ice Cubes
First, pat the leaves dry, and then chop them and remove the stems. Next, grab some ice cube trays, and fill them halfway with the chopped leaves, and top of with water and freeze. After the cubes have frozen, store them in an airtight freezer bag or container for up to three months.
You can also place the leaves directly on a baking sheet, freeze for two to three hours, and set in freezer bags. The frozen baking sheets can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
To harvest and store mint is easy and can be done in myriad different ways. Mint leaves stored well can be used to make soothing mint teas, in Middle Eastern dishes, as garnish platters, or in mint jellies to compliment your fish, meat, or vegetables.
Garden mint, scientific name, Mentha spicata is also useful to help keep your skin toned, so it’s a good plant to have in your herb garden.