After two years of failures, I’ve finally found the secret to dehydrating mint.
What’s the secret you ask? Follow the experts!
The first year I dried mint I just cut the stalks, hung them up and put to dry in the sun.
- Left them too long
- they were brown and dusty
- they had little or no smell or flavour
The second year, I picked the mint and put it stalks and all into the dehydrator.
- crisp and dry (good)
- little brown (may be left in too long or processed them too hot a heat)
- little or no smell or flavour
Each year I tried each of the batches as tea and I have to say they were disgusting. Sort of like dirty dishwater without any flavour.
Of all herbs, I figured that mint had to be one of the easiest to dry. You can’t kill it. Lord knows I’ve tried.
I’ve abused it, pulled it all out (at least I thought I did), left it parched with no nutrients and it still grew. I believe if you had just a rocky field or driveway that it would find a way to survive.
So why wasn’t I able to get some decent tea out of it?
Okay… so I could use it fresh but what about on those cold winter nights after dinner, when you just want a nice herbal tea to settle the stomach and relax.
After two years of trying, I figured I better go back to square one.
In doing some research, the first thing I learned is that you don’t dry mint out in full sun. Sunlight destroys a herb’s essential oils and colour. In fact, it’s better to keep your herbs in a dark place even after being dried to maintain their potency.
The second thing I learned was to pick the mint first thing in the morning after the dew has dried. The oils in the plant are the strongest and most concentrated at this time.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I followed it to the letter.
The third thing I learned was if you put the dehydrated on too high a setting, it will destroy the essential oils and basically, you will have cooked mint instead of dried mint. Been there done that!
The fourth thing I learned is that you pick the mint before it flowers. Once it flowers all the energy and oils are going up in the flowers and the leaves lose their potency. And I picked the mint when it was in flower both years.
Supposedly the best time to pick is just before the mint plant forms a flower bud as you will get the most flavour from the leaves at this time.
So with my new found knowledge, I was so glad that I caught my mint before it flowered.
This year, I had peppermint and some spearmint. They had both been placed into pots so they couldn’t spread to the rest of the garden.
To start the process I picked it in the morning after the dew was off the leaves.
As you can see from the picture, I trimmed the heck out of it. A lot of people say that you should only cut it down to the last two leaves at the bottom so the plants don’t go into too much shock.
But as I mentioned earlier, you can’t kill it. I just leave a few bits of new growth around and within a couple of weeks, it will look like it does in the before picture.
After cutting the peppermint, I took a sharp pair of scissors and cut off the leaves taking off as much of the stem as possible. And… as I wanted to try an experiment, I left some on the stems as well.
The spearmint I left on the stems as the leaves are a lot smaller than the peppermint. But in both cases, I trimmed them in the garden. Taking off all the discoloured leaves and anything that looked a little iffy and ended up with a clean product that was ready to dry.
At this stage, a lot of people wash it and dry it in their salad spinner, but I didn’t bother with this step. Both plants were clean and didn’t have any visible bugs on them, so I went ahead and started to process them.
Arranging the mint as in the pictures below I proceeded to put on the dehydrator.
I ended up with 6 trays from the amount of mint that was cut. Two spearmints and three peppermint leaves and one peppermint with stems.
Making sure that the dehydrator was set at the lowest level (on my dehydrator it is 95 degrees F) I started the machine.
Checking them every hour to see how they were progressing, it didn’t take long for them to dehydrate. I left them for 3 hours and they were totally dry.
The spearmint looked a little brown, but it had quite a few brown tones in the leaves to begin with, and the peppermint came out green. Amazing.
And both mints smelled delicious!
The first step was to put the leaves on an aluminum cookie sheet that you can get at the dollar store. Separate the leaves just by running your hand down the stems and then place the dried leaves into jars using a funnel.
Even though it was a little more work, I preferred cutting the leaves off the peppermint rather than taking them off the stem when they were dried.
This kept the leaves whole and when it was taken from the stem after drying the leaves become crushed. Not that there is any difference if you are making it into a tea, but if I was going to use it to put into an iced drink it would be nice to have the full leaf.
As the leaves were smaller on the spearmint, they seemed to retain their shape so this wasn’t an issue.
To give it the taste test I made two cups of tea to sample and they were both aromatic and pleasing to the palate.
I can now say that my mint dehydration has the sweet smell of success… In more ways than one.
I make fresh mint tea all summer but have never thought about drying it, I don’t have a dehydrator any ideas about drying it? in Sun? in oven?
Other than my one one not to successful attempt at drying in the sun I’ve only used a dehydrator. But here is an article on drying mint in the sun as well as in the oven. http://www.preservingyourharvest.com/DryingMint.html
You can dry mint and herb leaves in the microwave. Place just leaves between paper towels on a paper plate. Microwave high approximately 30-40 seconds. Check. Add increments of 30 seconds until desired dryness.
I grow lots of mint in Earthbox type containers, and like you after I harvest, cut them down to the ground and they always come up again. I also use the stuff that grows wild everywhere. However, I don’t dry any of it.
I freeze the leaves after I’ve washed them several times and spun them dry. I usually collect about 90-110 grams per gallon ziplock freezer bags, roll them to squeeze out air and seal them. When I want to make a bunch of tea, I just add all the leaves to about 6 qts. boiling water, take off heat and let sit for 20-40 min. Then filter it into containers that go into the refrigerator for use as iced tea, or just heat a cupful for warm tea.
That sounds wonderful.
I have more mint growing so I’m going to try it with a batch.
I wonder if it would work for basil. Not for tea but to use in cooking. Might have to try that as well using your method.
Thanks so much for sharing.
I grow peppermint, spearmint, orange mint, choc mint, basil, oregano, parsley & cilantro. I use them all summer & bring inside till they are finished. I always dry all of them especially the mint all summer long also so I have it all winter. What I do is take the leaves off the stems, lay them on paper towels & labeled. The next day they are dry. They do not lose their flavor only turn brown but we dont have a problem with the color. When using the dried mints and herbs, just rub them in your hands and the dried crumbs will go into your glass or whereever you want to use it. On the paper towels they are not in the sun just on the counter on the kitchen. We drink tons of sweet tea and use the mint all the time. Really love the orange mint. I got a couple plants from Amazon but in the winter they die. I ordered 1000 seeds for .69 cents. So I am all set for a while. Hopefully they are easy to start. It is almost time to start growing some in the house again.
Thanks for the handy tip, Linda.
I’ll have to give that a try this summer.
Like you Heather I have been trying to dry herbs successfully. Not much luck. Your tips are good and I’ll try some of them.
Although I can’t get my mint to grow in abundance or spread like they are suppose to. Maybe this is good.
I’ve my herbs in oil for a week or so and have
stored the oils for cooking with. It works well.
Thanks for the tips Patricia,
I’ll have to try putting them into oil.
I use rosemary all the time so that would work well for it
I have been out picking wild mint from our waterlogged garden (really wet winter and summer). Half the pick is currently in the dehydrator and will then be whizzed until they are finely cut and put into a glass jar in the freezer – yes I store all my dry herbs in the freezer, I get fresher herbs. Basil I open dry keeping the whole leaves and use for pesto (using cashew nuts as that is what the shops use as I am slightly allergic to other nuts). I have also dried a container of parsley and in the week I have left it, it has grown new leaves. Very late in the year but I will dry those. I have lemon verbena (for tea) and lemon thyme to dry as well as a few sage leaves (far too wet for sage this year). Our huge rosemary has died after flowering for over 6 months and will have to be replaced next year. Our hibiscus has finally flowered but it is too late for me to dry the flowers for tea, the weather is too wet and the leaves are very delicate.
Do it the old-fashioned way. Cut your mint bouquet and tie a string around it and hang your mint upside down in a cool dark place. This is how herbs were dried for centuries before dehydrators.