Spring garden: drying mint ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

09 May 2012

Spring garden: drying mint

So you remember the mint that was exploding all over my side bed about a month and a half ago?

Me too--especially because "exploding" is exactly the right term to describe what it was then doing, and now continues to do. Clearly, something had to change. For one thing, I want to plant some zucchini starts in the front of that bed, and the mint was steadily encroaching further and further out.

That's how I came to spend last weekend making this.

how to dry mint without a dehydrator

Contrary to popular belief (er, are there many popular beliefs about drying herbs in this day and age?), you do not need a dehydrator to dry home-grown herbs. All you really need is some string and somewhere to hang the herb stems, preferably out of direct sunlight.

This method should work with most herbs that grow on a stem that is reasonable to hang. If you live in a particularly damp climate, or don't have a good place to hang your herbs, I recommend using a dehydrator or very low oven instead.

Drying mint without a dehydrator

Target healthy, green, beautiful mint leaves for drying. You want to dry them before they bolt and flower, so May isn't too preposterous a time to start.

To harvest, use kitchen scissors to cut your mint stalks near the base of the plant. The best time to harvest herbs is supposedly early in the morning, since the essential oils are supposed to be most abundant then, but I haven't found any actual evidence to support this. So I cut a good 40 or 50 stems of spearmint sometime around 3 pm, because that's what time this project occurred to me. Why not?

Wash your mint well in cold water, leaving the healthy leaves on the stems. Strip off shriveled, yellowed, or buggy leaves. Gently pat dry between kitchen towels.

Tie your mint into bundles of six or eight stems, taking care not to crowd them too much. I actually sewed mine together. Why? An excellent question, since I could certainly have just tied them.

Now hang your bundles up to dry. Again, don't crowd them--you want the air to come in contact with all the leaves. I tied mine to a couple of hangers and made a mobile over our washing machine. Decorative and beautifully scented!

dried spearmint

Now my mint looks like this!

Drying time is going to vary based on all kinds of different environmental factors. My mint seems to be dry now, after about five days hanging out in the laundry room. However, I'm planning to leave it up for another couple days, just to be sure. Bottling herbs that are not totally dehydrated will become problematic for obvious mold reasons, so let's just not go there, okay? You can check for dryness by breaking a leaf in half and seeing if it oozes any beads of moisture.

When your mint is thoroughly dry, you can strip the leaves off the stems, crumble them to your specifications, and put them in jars or other reasonable containers. I'm planning to put all my leaves in a plastic bag, crunch them up with a rolling pin, and use them as loose-leaf mint tea.

You now have homemade dried mint! Hooray!


Anonymous said...

Great post! I am growing Mint as well and know that I will be needing to do this soon :)

Akila said...

Nice post

Jes said...

Lots of mint tea in your future? :) Be sure to make some mint chip ice cream with the plethora of fresh mint you've got!

Joanne said...

Mint really is one of those herbs that, when it arrives, it does so in FULL FORCE. Thanks for these drying tips!

Aylin @ Glow Kitchen said...

I love drying my own herbs--far less intimidating than most people thing Dried mint I haven't tried just yet. I like the hanging idea!

Kat said...

No I don't think there are many popular beliefs when it comes to drying herbs these days, at least I haven't heard many! I love the idea of having homemade dry herbs. Thanks for the tips!

Eileen said...

Glad you guys like it! And yes, Jes, I should definitely make some mint ice cream. I just have to eat my way sufficiently through the freezer to get the ice cream maker bowl in...

Anonymous said...

My friend uses her dried mint leaves to freshen up the house. She throws a few stems of dried mint on the rug, squashes it with her foot & vacumes it up. The whole room smells like mint!
PS I am 78 & this is my 61st garden & though I have used dried mint forever, I never thought of doing this! Roxie