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How to Dry Your Own Fresh Mint:
Growing your own mint is healthy, economical and actually very easy! Mints will readily make themselves at home in full sun to partial shade in moist soil. Most gardeners don't have any trouble growing mints, but it can get away from you if you are not careful. At Farm Fresh Living we recommend growing all mints organically and in a contained area, such as a raised bed or patio container or planting them in a large pot in the ground. All mints perform best when they are harvested or cut back at regular intervals which is ideal for drying and saving herbs to be used at a later time.
Mint Varieties to Use: While you can dry any variety of mint, our favorite mints to dry and use at the farm are:
Orange Mint - delicious citrus flavor and aroma. Use Orange mint in teas, cosmetics and culinary applications.
Chocolate Mint - smells just like an Andes after-dinner mint, decadent!
Peppermint - the classic mint flavor and aroma. Useful in culinary application, teas and cosmetics.
Spearmint - fresh and clean taste and smell. Use in aromatherapy, culinary uses, cosmetics and of course teas.
Apple Mint - lush apple green foliage and a sweet green apple aroma make this a wonderful mint to add to any herb garden.
The best time to harvest mints for drying is just before they flower. Mint leaves retain the highest oil
content prior to flowering. The oil content in herbs is what gives the herb its aroma and flavor. If possible always cut mint mid-morning after the leaves have dried but before the heat of the day. Harvesting in the early evening is also a good time. When you harvest mint cut stems of equal length and at least 4" -5" long. You will need the length in the stems if you intend to hang your mint upside down to dry.
Herb Drying Methods:
Most herbs can be dried either in the oven, in a dehydrator or by hanging in a dark, warm area.
Drying Herbs Using the Hanging Method: All herbs must be dried thoroughly before storing and particularly those with high moisture content such as mint, basil, rosemary and tarragon. To dry herbs, gather a bunch of herbs together by the stems and tie tightly with twine. Cover the bunch of mint with a brown lunch bag and secure. Covering the herbs with a brown bag will help them to retain their color and oil content during the drying process. Hang the bunch of herbs upside down in a dark , warm (70 degrees - 80 degrees) well-ventilated, dust free area. We dry our herbs in the rafters of one our barns, but you can use a garage or other structure if needed. It typically takes 1-2 weeks for the herbs to dry completely.
Drying Herbs Using the Oven Method: Drying mint in an oven is a faster way to complete the process, but you will loose some of the oil content from the leaves. Dry in a very cool oven (high temperatures will result in tasteless herbs). Basically, just turn the oven on to "warm" (140 to 200 F) (or 65 degrees C to 93 degrees C, gas mark 1) for 20 minutes, then turn it off and pop in the herbs.
Strip dried leaves from stems and discard the stems. Take care to not crush the leaves as this will result in flavorless herbs. Place the leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer. Turn the oven on to 'warm' for 20-30 minutes then turn the oven off. Place the baking sheet in the oven and leave until the herbs are dried. Oven times vary based upon the make and model of the oven, so some trail and error is required.
Herb Storage Techniques:
When your mint leaves are completely dry, either carefully remove them from the brown bag or off of the baking sheet depending on the drying technique that you used. I recommend not crushing your herbs, but rather storing them whole and then crushing them if needed right before using. Store the dried herbs in airtight containers such as canning jars. Never store herbs in plastic containers or plastic wrap as the oil will leech out of the herbs into the plastic. Check your stored herbs frequently after you have stored them for the first few weeks to look for any signs of moisture. Herbs will mold quickly in closed jars if not completely dry.Once you are sure the herbs are completely dry, place them in the airtight containers, and store them in a cool, dry place away from light.