When we moved into this house, a small patch of mint was grown along the side of the extension at the back. Since that time I’ve added a brick border and planted a few herbs up above the mint but I really just leave the mint to do what mint does. Which is spread, grow gangly, flower, die back, grow up again… It’s been wonderful. Sometimes a bit too wonderful. It’s in the grass (who cares) and crowding out some of the herbs (that I care about). So yesterday I spent about 30 minutes cutting back and snipping off and now I have a nicely controlled mint bed – with the rest of the herbs able to breathe a bit more freely. (Before and after pictured above.)
I ended up with a basket full of mint leaves (seriously full – even after my neighbour took a large handful to use however he sees fit). I also scored a nice little vase of mint that looks lovely, smells divine and no doubt will root easily.
This clean out inadvertently created a problem for me: what to do with this huge mint harvest. I could just dump it in the compost bin, after all, all year round I can just walk down the back steps and pick fresh – even after this ruthless pruning. But gee it’s hard to throw away the fresh growth only because it happened to grow from the end of last year’s stem. So I did some research and I’m trialing a few storage techniques. Partly I want to keep this yummy mint and partly I figure it’s good practice that I might use on other leaves in the future. What I’ve done/am trying includes:
- Putting the stems in water. They should keep a good week this way. I’m expecting them to shoot after which I’ll plant them. And give them away – I sure don’t need more plants (pictured above beside the basket of leaves).
- Drying the leaves by spreading them on a paper towel in the sun for several days. This is a work in progress (pictured below). Apparently mint moulds easily so I’m going to turn them regurlarly and keep an eye on them.
- Drying the leaves by hanging them in a dark place (an empty cupboard) for 1-2 weeks. A work in progress (pictured below).
- Drying the leaves by microwaving them for 3 minutes, turning them, and blowing out the moisture every 30 seconds. This worked amazingly well. The first 2 rounds of 30 seconds were accompanied by a lot of popping and steam – so much so that after 1 minute I had to use a towel to wipe out the microwave. After that the leaves just dried out and retained their fresh green colour. I made a cup of tea out of them this morning and they are perhaps a tiny weaker in flavour than fresh, but perfectly minty. (The dried leaves can be seen in the leftmost jar of the third photo below.)
- Freezing some leaves in a jar. (Pictured in the righthand jar.) I checked them this morning and they are crisp and green and will be easy to use in tea or cooking.
- Turning leaves into mint sauce. Frank and I have never eaten mint sauce so I’m not sure how much of this we’ll use. It’s supposed to be good with lamb. Maybe we need to go get a leg of lamb and roast it to test the sauce properly. (Pictured in the last photo with 1 1/2 jars of sauce).