If you grow mint in your own garden, you can harvest it from spring to fall, whether for fresh peppermint tea, delicious cocktails or as a cooking ingredient. But where do you cut the mint, when is the best time to do it, and what is the best way to store it afterwards?
Harvesting mint: The most important facts in brief
- Mint can be harvested from spring until the first frost.
- The best period for harvesting is before flowering (in June/July). This is when the leaves contain the most essential oils.
- Cut the shoots back by about half, and the plant can regenerate quickly.
- Don’t harvest all the shoots, but leave some to stand and flower. The bees will thank you for it!
- Use sharp secateurs or herb sickle for harvesting.
When is the best time to harvest mint?
In principle, mint can be harvested throughout the season, from spring to autumn, whenever you want to use the fresh herb in the kitchen. In this case, you usually harvest the young shoot tips and the plants soon continue to grow. Cut the mint to harvest, for example, because you want to dry larger quantities as a supply for the winter, but there are some things to keep in mind: It’s best to harvest the shoots between June and July, before the plants bloom. This is because the content of healthy ingredients such as essential oils, tannins and flavonoids is at its highest shortly before flowering. Also, choose a dry, sunny day and harvest in the late morning. This way you will achieve that the harvested parts of the plant have an optimal concentration of the ingredients. Cut the shoots back to about half when harvesting, so that the plants can still regenerate for further harvests in the summer. For this purpose, use sharpened and clean secateurs, larger household scissors or herb sickle.
During the main harvest, also make sure to leave a part of the mint shoots completely, so that the plants can form flowers. These are popular bee food until well into late summer and also magically attract many other flower visitors among the insects. In addition, the small, usually light purple flowers are also edible and have a delicate minty flavor. You can use them to decorate desserts or salads, for example.
Drying mint after harvest
After harvesting, you should use your mint quickly, preferably on the same day. If necessary, you can store the leaves in a shady place for a maximum of one day, but not longer than that, otherwise the leaves will wilt and lose flavor. If you want to preserve the mint by drying it, you can dry the crop hanging in bunches, depending on the space available, or separate the leaves from the stems and spread them out on grates or place them in an automatic dehydrator. The drying place should be warm and airy, but no hotter than 40 °C / 104 °F. If mint is dried too hot, many essential oils are lost. Also avoid too strong, direct sunlight. Only when the leaves are rustling and brittle the mint is dry enough to be transferred to cans or other sealable storage containers. Be sure to store the dried mint in a dark place.
Smaller quantities of the mint, for example for a refreshing summer cocktail, you can also simply fill into ice cube molds with a little water and then freeze the mint. This is not only practical and gives the cocktails a fresh touch, but also looks good.