MINT: GROWING, HARVESTING, PROPAGATING, & MAKING TEA
The smell of sweet mint is in the air, and the refreshing characteristics of this delightful herb fills the garden with bright green foliage. Mint grows well in many environments and is easy to maintain even if you don’t consider yourself as someone with a green thumb. It comes in many varieties like peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint and has earned its place in the herb garden for many reasons. Mint is a great herb choice for backyard and balcony gardens because it is so versatile in its uses and is incredibly easy and fast growing. When you think of mint you might remember the taste of a peppermint patty, chewing gum, or little mint candies during the holidays. But mint is so much more than any of these items, and mint’s versatility in food dishes, drinks, oils, and body care products is what makes it worth growing your own supply!
Mint is very easy to grow both indoors and out. All it needs is space, lots of sun, and water. Mint spreads on its own throughout a garden especially its thick root system, which is why planting mint in a container garden is perfect for keeping the plant sizable. Otherwise, it will take over entire garden areas and outgrow other plants. To give you an idea, I planted mint next to a row of beans this year, and the beans stayed clear of the mint. All four times I attempted to grow beans or other vegetables near the mint in the same soil, the plants never sprouted, and those that did were choked out shortly after. So, plant your mint by itself in a pot. Mint really likes full sun as well, which means 6+ hrs of direct sunlight. It can grow in a cool less sunny spot too as it is pretty tolerant.
Another great advantage to growing mint is that it can be harvested fairly regularly and all year long, even when the plant is still small. The leaves grow quite fast and plucking the leaves from random areas of the plant will encourage more leaf growth and thick foliage. Young leaves also hold more flavour than old ones do, so by picking regularly you’ll always have leaves with strong flavours.
Leaves can be pinched off the stems using your fingers, and new tiny leaves will sprout within a couple days. To keep the plant in good health, always remember to harvest no more than a third of the leaves at one time. If you plan to harvest a large amount of mint nearing the end of the season, consider freezing, hanging the mint to dry, or microwave drying the leaves. To microwave dry, lay the mint leaves in a single layer on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds on one side, flipping the leaves, then 15 – 20 more seconds on the other. Although it is much faster, microwaving the leaves does dilute the flavouring and results in a slightly weaker, more mild mint taste.
propagating is a fun way to make more mint plants from one you already have. Whether you are looking to give little plants away to friends, have smaller mint plants indoors for the winter, or just make yourself more plants, propagating mint is fun and easy. It’s also quite addicting, and soon enough you may end up with many tiny mint plants that you don’t know what to do with!
To propagate, clip an area of the plant that has a few nice top leaves. Cut about 3-4” down the branch just below a node. A node is a place on the branch where a leaf grows. Once cut, remove all the bottom leaves, only leaving the top 4-6 leaves attached. Of course, don’t get rid of these removed leaves, use them to give a light and fresh taste to your water.
Now that you’ve removed all but 4-6 leaves, place your mint cutting in a small jar of water for about a week or so. Make sure the leaves you left on the branch are not submerged in the water and are instead resting on the rim of the jar. You’ll be able to watch little roots form at the bottom node submerged in water. Once it has a few roots like this one, it can be planted in a pot of soil.
After a day of being in the soil you may notice that the leaves might look droopy. This is okay as the plant will be reacclimatizing to its new environment. Just keep it well hydrated and it will spring back, eventually spreading out and growing thick foliage.
Being able to use fresh mint everyday is the number one reason to grow it! My favourite ways to consume mint are in cold water (I let a water jug steep with mint in the fridge), adding it to the greens of a summer salad, and an evening mint tea. One of the reasons mint is great to use regularly is because of the benefits it offers our bodies. Mint is known to promote perspiration to fend off colds, help with congestion, and aid upset digestive systems.
Mint tea can help with any of the above issues but is also a great way to consume mint in a relaxing manner. Thankfully, mint also extracts its oils and fresh flavours when steeping in hot water, making tea an easy go to.
10 – 15 Fresh mint leaves or 1 tbsp dried
Almost boiling water
Honey – for sweetness
Tea strainer or fabric tea sack
To Make Mint Tea:
Place your mint leaves in your tea strainer or even right into your cup. Pour water that is not quite boiling overtop of the mint leaves. Let sit to steep for 10 minutes (as herbal teas take longer to steep). Remove the strainer/leaves and enjoy!
Mint pairs well in teas with many other herbs and flowers including lavender, ginger root, elderberry, chamomile, and citrus.
Mint Infused Water:
If you aren’t a herbal tea person, or just need a way to consume more water throughout the day, consider harvesting a small bunch of mint leaves (about 20), twist or tear them to help the flavours release, and add them to a water jug. The mint leaves will create a very light fresh taste that is not at all overpowering like lime or lemon. You can continue to refill the jug a couple of times before the mint is exhausted.
Other Ways to Use Mint:
Add to salad greens
Throw into smoothies – try a strawberry mint smoothie
Mix into curries
Salad dressing – try this lime & mint dressing for fruit salads
Summer mojitos or mint lemonade
Insect repellent (mint oil)
Growing from your own backyard is both rewarding, useful, and low waste as it avoids store bought packaging. Even if you think you are not a gardener, give mint a try, and you might just become one!