Did you know that the United States produces 70% of the world’s peppermint oil output? Pretty cool, huh!
Mint is mainly grown in the northwestern states (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) and, if you’re thinking of growing mint commercially, the price per pound for peppermint was $19.80 in 2018.
Even if you’re not starting a commercial venture, mint is truly a must-grow herb. There’s no such thing as too little space – mint is incredibly accommodating and will happily grow in the smallest spaces, or a container for that matter.
Let’s look into how to harvest mint leaves for tea, meals, and medicinal purposes.
How to Harvest Mint Leaves
Mint leaves can be harvested by picking individual leaves if you only need a small amount for tea or a meal. You can pinch the leaves with your fingers or use sharp scissors. For a large amount, you can harvest the whole plant. Cut just above the second set of lower leaves, usually around 3-5″ above the ground.
The Best Time to Harvest Mint Leaves
The best time to harvest mint leaves is in the morning, which is when the essential oils are most vibrant. You’ll get the most intense flavor just before the mint plant begins to flower. Young mint leaves are more tender and have a better flavor than older, bigger leaves.
Start harvesting mint leaves in the spring as soon as the plant has leafed out. Continue to harvest as often as possible throughout summer. Harvesting mint leaves frequently keeps the herb in check and encourages the plant to produce new leaves.
The more you pick, the more mint leaves grow, so keep picking throughout the growing season.
Harvesting Mint Tips
- Pinch single leaves with your fingers or sharp scissors
- Harvest the whole plant by cutting just above the second set of bottom leaves.
- Harvest mint leaves in the spring just before they start to flower.
- Harvest the leaves early in the morning.
- Pick fresh, young leaves.
- The more you pick, the more they will grow.
How to Grow Mint In Your Garden or Container
The better you grow mint, the more mint leaves you can harvest! Let’s dive into some tips to grow the most and best mint.
- Mint prefers loose, rich soil.
- Prepare the soil with a liberal sprinkling of lime. If your soil is alkaline, use gypsum instead.
- Plant them in sun or shade.
- Water regularly, especially during dry spells. Mint prefers to not dry out completely.
- Essential oil content will be highest when you grow them in full sun. However, in hot climates, mint grows better with protection from the hottest sun hours.
- Trim them regularly for nice, bushy growth.
- There are many different varieties of mint, growing between 6″ to 3ft tall.
- Some mint varieties are susceptible to mint rust, especially in humid climates. If you spot small, orange, powdery spots, cut the stems immediately and destroy them. Check regularly throughout the season – be vigilant!
A word of caution:
Mint plants develop creeping rootstock, both above the ground and beneath it. When they’re happy, they can spread rapidly throughout your garden.
This is beneficial if you grow them as a groundcover, in your orchard for example, or in amongst larger shrubs. Mint effectively keeps weeds down and acts as a living mulch. However, in smaller gardens, you may wish to contain in by growing your mint in a pot.
How to Propagate Mint
Mint plants can be propagated easily. They can be propagated from runners, root cuttings, or stem cuttings. They can also be propagated from seed, but cuttings are the best way to make sure you are getting the exact mint variety you are looking for.
Mint stem cuttings root quickly in water. Take a cutting of at least 4″ long and place them in a glass of water. Keep the glass in a well-lit spot, such as your windowsill (as long as it doesn’t get too hot). Cuttings will start forming roots in a matter of days.
Once you plant your water-rooted cuttings in your garden or container, keep them well-watered for the first couple of weeks. Water-grown cuttings grow water roots and these are very susceptible to drying out.
Runners are another very easy propagation method. Identify a trailing branch. Lift it up gently – you’ll most likely see some roots already developed. Cut this branch off and replant it in your own garden.
If none of the trailing branches have developed roots yet, you can use a method called layering. Cover a portion of the branch with soil and make sure it stays down securely. You can place a rock on top if it wants to pop up.
After a week or two, check your branch – you should see some nicely developed roots in place. Cut from the mother plant, dig the section of the plant up, and replant.
Enjoy a fresh cup of tea, straight from your home garden! This tea garden kit comes with heirloom, non-GMO mint/peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender herb seeds to start your very own herb garden.
Where to Grow Mint
Most plants, including mint, grow so much better and healthier in the ground. Containers come with the dangers of dehydration, over-watering, and infertile soil.
However, mint will grow well in a large, roomy container on your patio, in a small container on your kitchen bench, or in a shady place in the garden where other plants may not grow.
If you have the space and choose to grow mint in the garden, make sure there are no fragile, small plants nearby. Mint will outgrow most other, smaller plants.
To stop it from getting out of control, you can submerge a container in the ground to stop it from spreading, or use garden edging to keep it where you want it.
If you have plenty of space or want a large crop, you can grow them straight in the ground. I haven’t found mint to be a problem, it makes a particularly useful ground cover. It actually grows fast enough to keep the weeds down!
Mulch your mint plants to prevent weeds, retain moisture, and control spreading roots.
How to Use Your Mint Leaf Harvest
- Dry mint leaves for later or use them fresh.
- Twist a few clean leaves to release the oils, and add the crushed leaves to a cup of hot water. Steep the leaves in hot water for a few minutes to make a soothing mint tea.
- Freeze mint leaves along with cranberries, blueberries, or raspberries and water in ice cube trays for parties and just for fun.
- Great in Middle Eastern dishes.
- Potatoes, mint, and peas is the perfect combination, but try mint with eggplant too.
- Toss mint leaves into fresh fruit salad or add it to salad dressings and marinades.
- Garnish platters, tapas, and antipasto with the lime green mint leaves.
- Chop some mint sprigs into your salad, it’s the best.
- You can store it in the fridge with the cut ends in a jar of water or wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel.
- Make mint jelly, my favorite with roast meat or fish and vegetables.
- Try candied mint leaves for that special cheesecake dessert.
- Grow mint (particularly pennyroyal) as a flea and insect repellent. Caution – Pennyroyal can be toxic if ingested in excess. Never take it during pregnancy and always consult your health professional before taking any herbs or other substances.
Mint Leaves as Medicine
One of the quickest and easiest ways to benefit from mint’s healing properties is to have it as a tea. Use two teaspoons of fresh mint leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried mint leaves in a tea pot or tea strainer. Steep for about 5-10 minutes to get the full benefits and flavor.
Harvesting Mint Leaves for Tea
A cup of mint tea may help to:
- Reduce the susceptibility for growth of bacteria and viruses in the body.
- Relieve gas and indigestion.
- Alleviate morning sickness.
- Relieve a congested nose.
- Freshen breath.
- Repel pests including mice, cockroaches, deer, and ants. It contains pulegone, an ingredient in many natural insect repellents.
The smell from mint leaves is divine and healing, just keep bunches of it around the house in vases everywhere and feel invigorated, motivated and fresh.