Growing your own mint for that perfect cup of tea – or mojito is so rewarding, but how to pick mint leaves the correct way and keep the plant growing? Mint has many uses in the kitchen and around the house. By planting mint in your garden, you’ll always have fresh leaves on hand. The fragrant plant lets out offshoots right above the soil and makes the perfect ground cover.
Learn how to grow it and keep the plant alive longer.
Growing Mint: When, Where & How
Mint is one of the plants that require minimal maintenance. After all, its natural habitat is stream banks. It’s a perennial plant that vigorously spreads out and thrives even in poor conditions. You can plant the aromatic herb in all parts of the US, sun or shade. It requires moist but well-draining soil that you can enrich with good compost.
The best time to plant mint is after the last frost – check your local calendar for this information. Pick a larger surface of your garden as mint tends to spread out fast. Plant it in a pot if you have limited space or don’t want the mint taking over. There are many types of mint, but they’re all equally fragrant and aggressive growers. To prevent the mint from depriving your other crops of nutrients, control the roots. The easiest way to do this is to plant it in pots, even in the ground.
In the garden, space out the plants 18 to 24 inches apart. After planting, water them frequently to make sure the top layer is moist.
How To Harvest Mint
Mint takes about 90 days to grow. Then you can pick the mint leaves by pinching each one. Pick as many fresh mint leaves as you plan on using.
If you need a bigger harvest, wait until it’s fully established and right before it blooms. This happens at some point during the summer until September. Then you can cut the stems two inches above the soil or at the second set of leaves. Keep in mind that the younger leaves are more fragrant.
Mint regrows after cutting, and you can repeat this process 2 to 3 times per season. Thus, frequent harvesting of mint leaves actually helps the herb.
Best Time To Pick Mint Leaves
Midway through the growing season is the best time to pick mint leaves. Follow your mint and harvest it right before the blooming period. Right before blooming, the taste of the mint is most intense. At this time, you can pick leaves or cut the stem 2 inches above the soil.
Cutting promotes healthier and bushier growth. The new stem will be stronger and have more leaves.
Harvesting Mint For Tea
Mint has wide use in cooking as a spice, air freshener, and even insect repellent. For tea, you can use fresh or dried mint. During summer, you can pick mint leaves right before brewing the tea. Pick and wash two stems of mint leaves and cover them with a cup of boiling water. Let it sit for 5 to 8 minutes before enjoying.
Mint tea aids in digestion, boosts your immune system, relieves cramps and headaches, and improves sleep.
You can enjoy some tea even after your mint goes dormant. Pick leaves before the blooming period, and wash them. Dry the mint with a kitchen towel and place it on a baking sheet. Set the oven between 105-120°F and dry for 2 to 3 hours. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup.
How To Store Freshly Picked Mint Leaves
You don’t have to dry the mint leaves as soon as you pick them. Instead, place your harvest in a cup with water and keep it on the counter. Mint keeps up nicely for a couple of weeks in the fridge. All you need to do is keep it in water.
Take a small jar of a tall glass and fill it with water. Put the stalks of mint inside like a flower bouquet. Then, take a small plastic bag and use it as a hat to cover the mint.
If you’re going to use the mint for drinks, fill an ice cube tray with water. Place a few fresh mint leaves in each one and freeze.
Types Of Mint
With so many types of mint, it can be hard to pick one type to plant. Always double-check to make sure you’re buying an edible plant. Look for spearmint, peppermint, banana mint, chocolate, and water mint as a simple guide. These kinds all require the same basic growing conditions.
Pineapple or citrus mint is also an excellent addition to your garden but can be harder to find.
The Health Benefits Of Mint
There are around 600 kinds of mint, with spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint being the most common. This hardy herb packs a ton of benefits and even more when it’s homegrown!
Mint combats bloating, indigestion, and gas, providing immediate relief. In addition, research has proven that mint has an analgetic and relaxation effect on the GI. It also works great in improving Irritable Bowel Symptoms.
Pick Mint Leaves For Bad Breath
Most chewing gums and breath mints contain mint and effectively mask bad breath. But the herb itself has a greater effect. Mint has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and it helps kill bacteria causing bad breath. To test this in practice, you can chew raw leaves or drink mint tea.
Helps You Sleep Better
Mint tea can help insomniacs. The herb is caffeine-free and has a relaxation effect on the nervous system. Research claims that people who have tea fall asleep faster and sleep longer hours.
Bottom Line: How To Pick Mint Leaves
Mint is a versatile herb that found its place in cooking, medicine, and around the house. Plant mint in your garden right after the last frost, and you’ll have fresh mint the whole summer. Picking mint leaves is easy – all you need is to choose the right time. The best season is right before the herb blooms; that’s when the leaves are the best quality.
Mint is easy to store and freezes great for cocktails.
Do you have mint in your garden? How do you deal with its runners?
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