Drying your own herbs is a great way to preserve the season and have access to quality herbs all year round. It can help to prevent food waste when you have more herbs than you can use and is especially helpful with herbs that are voracious growers… like mint! Learning how to dry mint is simple, takes very little hands-on time, and gives you an end product that has an incredibly wide variety of uses. Mint tea, anyone?
READY TO DRY SOME MINT?! HERE YOU’LL FIND:
The Health Benefits of Mint
Mint is an incredible plant medicine. While we most often see peppermint used in medicine due to its high concentration of menthol, all mints contain some menthol and they can largely be used interchangeably in both food & medicine.
Mint is carminative in nature, meaning it helps to ease digestion so that we can more smoothly and efficiently digest our food, absorbing more of its nutrients. Peppermint oil capsules are a common herbal remedy for digestive upset like gas and bloating, indigestion, and painful stomach cramping.
It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and is a delicious gently stimulating nervine. A cup of mint tea in the afternoon is a great pick-me up. It’s way less jolting to our nervous system than coffee and a caffeine-free option with added medicinal benefits.
When Should You Harvest Mint?
The best time to harvest any plant is when it’s at its prime, the height of its nutritional and medicinal content. With mint, you can harvest the first flush as soon as it’s green and vibrant in the spring. Mint will continue to re-grow after you harvest, possibly providing several opportunities to harvest throughout the growing season.
When harvesting mint for drying, it’s best to harvest early in the morning before the sun hits the plants. Mint is most lively after a night’s rest and before the stress of the day.
Also try to avoid harvesting after rain, as there tends to be so much water on the plants. When drying herbs, less water on the surface of the plants is better and can help to prevent frustrating molding situations.
However, if you must harvest after rain, just do your best to dry as much of the water from the surface of the plants as possible.
Some also prefer to wash the mint before drying to get rid of any bugs or dirt that may be on the leaves. I prefer not to do this unless the leaves are visibly covered in dirt. Instead, I prefer to just take a bundle at a time and give it a good shake (like you’re shaking out a paint brush) and a few brushes with my hands.
If you do prefer to wash your mint before drying, just be sure to lay the mint out on a towel to dry as much of the water off as possible, especially if bundling for open-air drying.
How to Dry Fresh Mint Leaves
There are a few different ways to dry fresh mint. The equipment, space/environment, and time you have available to you is helpful in deciding which method will work best for you.
Here’s how to dry mint in 3 easy ways:
How to Open-Air Dry Mint
In drying mint out in the open air, it’s important that the mint is left in a dry environment (the lower the humidity, the better) and out of direct sunlight. The open-air method of drying fresh mint leaves can be done one of two basic ways.
Open-Air Method #1: Bunch the sprigs of mint together and hang to dry.
- Bundle the mint together, making sure your bundles aren’t so large or dense so as to cause poor air circulation. (Drier environments with lower humidity can handler larger, denser bundles. Otherwise, mold becomes a concern.)
- Use rubber bands instead of twine. As the mint wilts and dries, the twine will likely loose its grip, whereas the rubber band can contract with the mint as it dries.
- Hang the bundles in a dry space out of direct sunlight. You can hang them inside or outside under a covered porch. Above a wood-burning stove is another great place to hang herbs to dry.
- Depending on the environmental conditions, this method can take up to 10-14 days. Although, I’ve had some herbs dry in as little as 4-5 days in really dry conditions.
Open-Air Method #2: Lay the sprigs of mint out in a single layer in an open-air drying rack such as this adorable DIY one that uses old picture frames.
- Just spread the mint sprigs out in a single layer, leaving plenty of room for good air circulation.
- This method seems to go a little faster than bundling the mint, most likely because of better air flow. Plan for at least 5-7 days to allow the mint to dry completely.
Once you’re sure the mint is dry, next comes my favorite part! Garbling!
✺ Garbling Your Dried Herbs ✺
Garbling is an old-fashioned technical term used by herbalists and is simply the process of stripping the leaves from the stem, of separating the good parts from the unwanted or undesirable parts.
Essentially, holding the spring of mint on the tip, use your other hand to lightly pinch the sprig between your thumb and forefinger and run it down the length of the stem. The dried leaves should separate from the stem with ease.
How to Dry Mint with a Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator, you could dry mint in as little as 3-5 hours. Simply, pluck the leaves from the stems and arrange them on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. (Discard/compost the stems.)
Set the dehydrator to 105℉ (40℃) and allow to dry thoroughly. Check on the leaves after a few hours. Once dry, allow to cool completely before storing them otherwise, the condensation from the heat may cause the mint to mold.
Sometimes while the leaves are still al little warm, it’s hard to tell if they’re completely dry. If the aren’t entirely dry after they cool completely, just put them back in the dehydrator for another hour or so.
How to Dry Mint in the Oven
Using the oven to dry mint is very similar to the dehydrator method, only you’ll lay the mint out on a cookie sheet instead of a dehydrator tray and you’ll need to give the leaves or stems a tussle or turn a few times so that they dry evenly.
For this reason, I prefer to leave the leaves on the stem to make turning them easier. Although, you can remove the leaves to dry it you prefer. It does seem to take a little longer to dry on the stem, but it saves me the hands-on time of having to flip individual leaves.
Turn the oven to 105℉ (40℃), prop the oven door open the tiniest bit (a pot holder or even a wooden spoon is helpful for this), turn the leaves or stems every hour or so, and then remove once completely dry (~3-5 hours).
As in the dehydrator method, allow the leaves to cool completely before storing. And if you kept the leaves on the stem, once completely dry, garble as you would have in the open-air method.
How to Store Dried Mint
First and foremost, it’s imperative to ensure that your mint is entirely dry before processing and storing. You’ll know the mint is completely dry when the leaves easily crinkle and crunch between your fingertips.
If uncertain, just use your senses. Mint that is not completely dry will be softer, won’t crunch and crinkle between your fingers, and is oftentimes a different color than completely dry mint. If you’re still uncertain, there’s no harm in leaving it to dry a little a longer.
Store the dried leaves in lidded glass jars, in a dry place out of direct sunlight and away from heat. If stored properly, dried mint can last 6 months to a year. The older it gets, the less potent it becomes in smell and taste, as well as both nutritionally and medicinally.
Uses for Dried Mint Leaves
Oh, the many ways to use dried mint! Here’s a few:
- Mint tea or minty herbal tea blends (Try these!)
- Herbal cocktails (like this Ginger Mint Hot Toddy or this Wild Spring Vodka Mojito)
- Make bug spray
- Make a non-toxic cleaning spray
- Try making your own peppermint extract with vodka and dried peppermint.
- Sprinkle a little on fresh fruit or coconut yogurt.
- Bake with it! (Try the Peppermint Mocha pie in Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery.)
And the list could go on. In whatever way you choose to use mint, I hope you find the process of drying your own mint empowering and fun.
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The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns at all, it’s always a good idea to check with your health practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if taking any prescription medications.