With herb gardens becoming a common item in most homesteads nowadays, herbs are becoming used more and more for everything from cooking to medicines. One of my favorite herbs for the garden is mint. It comes in a variety of flavors for you to plant and harvest on your homestead. You can usually find peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, pineapple, and a multitude of other flavors.
This herb spreads rapidly in all directions in the garden, can be harvested up to 3 or more times per season, is a perennial in the south, can be grown in containers or between pavers, and is readily available in the marketplace.
Mint is planted in the spring in northern climates, usually in pots, and directly in the garden in late fall or early winter in southern zones. It prefers moist, damp ground. It does very well in hydroponic systems.
This herb prefers full sun or partial shade and requires a ph of 6.0 to 7.5. Although this herb does well with fertilizer it is not needed and it is not recommended to fertilize it when planting.
Replanting is required every 3 to 4 years to keep its flavors and scent strong. The tops will die back in winter except in zones 8 and south. The roots are hardy to zone 5.
Mint is vulnerable to whiteflies, blackflies, spider mites, snails, and slugs when the plant is young. Learn about natural hacks to rid your herbs of pests in my e-book Natural Old-Time Hacks, Tips, and Recipes for Your Gardens. Because this herb travels and spreads so quickly you will want to pinch the top stems often to encourage bushier growth. Buds should be trimmed to encourage bushy growth also. This happens between June and September.
Propagation is easy. Simply cut a stem from the plant, place in a small jar of water and wait for the roots to form. This usually happens within 2 to 3 weeks. When the roots are formed transplant to a bigger container with dirt and good drainage until new growth appears. At this time you can transplant the new plant into the garden or another more permanent container.
Mint is compatible with brassica, peas, and tomato, and is not compatible with any other spices in the garden.
When harvesting mint, the more you pick the better! Because you do not want the oils on your hands to interfere with the drying process it is important to use gloves. Gloves will keep the oil from your skin from covering the pores of the leaves and thus cause problems with drying.
For a good amount of mint to be harvested, it is best to cut the stems just above the second or third groups of leaves. Remove any yellowed or bug-eaten leaves underneath that are on the plant and in no time the plant will show new growth. This process can and should be done 2 to 4 times per season.
If you only need a few leaves or stems you can simply snip the leaves of the plant or take end cuttings of the stems.
Large harvests should be washed and dried and then tied in bunches of only 4 to 5 stems and hung in a cool, not humid, dark place until dried, usually three weeks. You can also place in between 2 paper towels on a cookie sheet and placed into an oven set on “warm” overnight. See my post on Tarragon to see my DIY Herb Drying Rack!
Fresh mint can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Dried leaves if kept in an airtight container will keep up to 2 years. A food saver can come in handy here. Just place the dried leaves in a mason jar with the seal on and seal with the food saver. If you don’t have a food saver you can seal the leaves in an airtight plastic bag and use a straw to remove the air as much as possible.
Mint can be chopped finely, mixed with olive oil and placed in ice cube trays in the freezer until needed. When frozen simply transfer the cubes to a freezer bag and use as needed for recipes calling for mint. Mix the fresh chopped mint with water using the same method and use in lemonade and cold teas after straining or placed in homemade tea bags.
The leaves can be preserved in vinegar also.
Uses for Mint
Mint is known to calm the stomach and relieve sore muscle spasms. It is also a great compliment to lamb, fish, poultry, peas, new potatoes, carrots, green or fruit salads, punch, lemonade, and teas, and can also be used when dried in potpourri and in sachets. It is even used in candy making.
To make tea with fresh mint, simply wash the leaves, tear into smaller pieces, place in a food processor with enough water to barely cover the leaves. Blend until mostly smooth. Add mixture to a teabag. Add hot water and let it steep for 2 minutes.
When making a large batch, after processing place the mixture in a cheesecloth and strain. The juice can be frozen or used as-is. The pulp that is left in the cheesecloth can be spread out into ice cube trays and frozen. These cubes can be used later for smoothies and recipes requiring mint.
More Information on Mint
Praise Onaturals has a great video on YouTube. It is all about how to make tea with mint. She provides an awesome step by step on how to freeze and prepare it. Check out her video above!
An extensive website on herbs and veggies is VeggieHarvest.com. You can learn about many veggies and herbs and how to grow, harvest and use each one.
For a great E-book packed with information on herb gardening from growing to harvesting and even using your herbs, check out my newest e-book, Herbs 101: Herb Gardening and Preserving for the Beginner.
Final Thoughts on Mint
Do you grow and preserve mint on your homestead? Do you have a recipe that you could share with my readers? If so post a comment below!