If I had to be completely honest, I would say that all the plants in the garden could be separated into two groups: fruits and vegetables. But, there is also the third group which is often wrongfully neglected. Cooking herbs are usually grown both in gardens and pots, so they are quite popular these days.
Although rosemary can give such distinctive taste, this article focuses instead on mint. Knowing how to harvest mint can save you a lot of trouble, and be a convenient guide if you have planned on growing one of those.
It is true that mint is grown everywhere today, and that there are trillions of places where you can buy it, fresh or dried, but my opinion is different. I think that while you can buy whichever spice you wish, you can’t buy that known taste of success. Also, I know some facts about mint, and here they are.
- The eldest trace of mint which is found is from Pliocene period ( approximately 5-2 million years ago)
How Should I Prepare?
Everything you need for proper mint harvesting is already at your disposal. If you are reading this in your kitchen, look around and find scissors. If you are in a garage, look around and find gardening scissors. If you can’t find them, that is great as well, but you will need some more time in this case. You will also need clean cloth or towel if you wish to dry it.
In general, there are two main approaches when it comes to harvesting mint. They differ, and you can either take one way or another (thanks Blondie for being stuck in my mind). It depends on your preference and what you want to do with the mint after the harvest. Here are both of those ways.
In case that you notice that your plant is falling behind, and requires some nutrients, I would recommend you to opt for Liquid Organic Fertilizers, which are mild and won’t cause burns. Also, they will make things easier for you, since you don’t need to prepare fertilizer on your own.
The First Way
If you wish to have a fresh batch of mint throughout the year, you are probably growing it in a pot. This way it is always close at hand. Since low maintenance, mint is convenient for occasional picking off the few leaves, just to add that sweet and refreshing taste to your meals.
That is it. Just pick a few leaves, or a handful if you are throwing a party and want to make mojitos, and use them. Of course, you should wash the leaves first, since pests or dirt can stick to the leaves. You don’t want an aphid to swim around in your guest’s drink, do you?
Keep in mind that in this way the scent of the plant is the strongest. To boost it, even more, press and twist the leaves a few time so that it will release more of the essential oils. My wife sometimes puts a few leaves in the chicken when bakes it whole, and you have to try to believe how good it is.
The good thing about this approach is that there is no time limit or harvesting season. You pick the leaves, and you use them, it is as simple as that. Of course, if you have more than a couple of plants, this might be a bit troublesome. Mint is very resistant plant and can grow pretty quickly. Therefore, this method is way better if you have several smaller ones in your pot.
The Second Method
Not every usage of mint includes fresh leaves. Tea is made from dried ones because during the process of drying leaves are releasing the majority of the essential oils, so much milder and subtle aroma remains. However, this approach requires a bit of preparation, and that scissors and white cloth I mentioned before.
Keep in mind that this way of mint harvesting somewhat stresses the plant, so if it is just settled, leave it for at least 4-6 weeks, so that roots gain strength, and the plant won’t die out after harvesting. Water the plant when the soil is dry, and provide enough sunlight, and it should progress nicely.
My preparation began one day before I wanted to harvest. Nice watering was essential since the plant will absorb that water and the leaves will be crispy, and the harvesting process will be much easier. Nice backpack sprayer came in handy here since I could water it more thoroughly without making a swamp in my garden. Also, I have harvested mint in the morning, before the Sun dries out the water from the leaves and the stem.
With the scissors in hand, I began harvesting. All I did was to cut the whole stem about 1.5 inches above the ground. Depending on the time of your harvest, you can either cut off about 2/3 of stems or all of them if you are harvesting in October, when is the harvesting season. After collecting how much you need, take a seat, and start inspecting leaves. Remove those with dry spots or blotches, since those can have a nasty taste, and can ruin the fun. Once you are left with branches filled with nice looking leaves, it is time to take them to the shower.
When mint is harvested in larger quantity, it can’t be spent right away, unless you are making mojitos in a bathtub (don’t try this at home). Therefore, it must be preserved for more extended period.
Once the branches are cut off, and damaged leaves removed, wash them with a stream of cold water. I’ve used the shower, with low setting applied, because high pressure will shred the leaves, and I didn’t want to do that. Alternatively, you can wash it in a 5-gallon bucket. Just fill it with cold water and submerge the mint with mild brushing. If it is needed, replace the water and repeat the procedure.
As for preservation, again, there are two ways, depending on you. I love to keep things as natural as possible, so I took two or three stems, bound them together with a rubber band, and hanged them in the shed. The location is vital, it must be well-aerated and shady. Sunlight dissolves the essential oils, and you don’t want to be left with a bunch of tasteless leaves, do you?
After a few weeks, the leaves should be dry. You will notice that the time is right for storing once they are crunchy and dry to touch. Gather all the branches, and put them into the container where they will remain. My preference is to use a large glass jar with tight lid. Avoid plastic, since it can generate some moist. I have cut the branches so that they can fit in the jar, and closed the lid. After a while, a few drops of moist appeared on the inside of the glass, so I’ve removed the mint and left it to dry for one more week.
If you are tight on the schedule, you can always dry the mint in the oven. I’ve tried that as well, and with just the light left on in the oven, I’ve placed washed branches on the cloth and in the tray. After about a day, mint should be ready for storing. There is also an alternative to storing the whole branches, and that would be to grind it.
The grinding is very easy with modern appliances, but this is not entertaining, isn’t it? Instead, I’ve tried to crush the mint with my hands, but this method is effective just for the leaves. To grind everything, use a kitchen cloth, wrap some mint cuts in, play the song from Michael Jackson “Beat it,” and do like the song commands. I’ve used a heavy stone to crush the mint, and once it is done, I’ve poured it into the jar. Just be careful, the melody of the song is contagious; I nearly hit my thumb couple of times, since I was dancing while doing this.
Well, that wraps up this article. Now that you know how to harvest mint, you can see that this is pretty straightforward work and that no special tools are needed. As I said, if you try to grow mint in your garden, it will surely have much better taste.
Also, it is important to mention that Microbial Inoculants will increase your harvest, so hop on to check them out!
As always, feel free to leave an opinion, comment or question in the comment section below.