When to harvest mint

Harvesting Fresh Mint

Your mint is growing like wildfire. It’s standing tall in your garden or planter just begging to become a cuppa mint tea.

Garden Mint Going Crazy

When, how, and how often should you harvest your fresh mint? Read on to find out.

(Note: If you haven’t read these herb harvesting tips yet, you might want to do that first.)

DIY Mint Tea
Grow, Brew & Enjoy!
About Mint | Growing Mint
Harvesting Mint (You Are Here)
Making Mint Tea | Preserving & Storing Mint

When to Begin Harvesting Your Mint

There’s only one harvesting “rule of thumb” that I religiously follow with my mint:
Give new mint plants a chance to firmly root themselves in the ground or planter before you start hacking away at them. (Oops, I mean before harvesting them.)

My New “Berries & Cream” Mint Plant
Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

In warm and sunny conditions, a “starter” mint plant will develop a strong root system and start putting out flavorful leaves within 4 to 6 weeks after planting.

How to Harvest Your Mint

Harvesting mint is as easy as falling off a log! Grab a basket, your shears, and get ready to snip.

When you’ve chosen a “volunteer”, reach down and cut the stem about 2″ (5 cm) above ground level – just above the junction where a set of leaves emerges from the stem.
For the best herbal tea, try to select stems with nice, full leaves and no brown spots or bug damage.

Cutting Here Encourages New Growth …

In a hurry? If you’re going to harvest a lot of mint, it’s okay to grab a handful of stems and chop them all off in one whack.

I do that with my garden mint every few weeks, all summer long – and I haven’t succeeded in killing the darn stuff yet 😉

How Much Mint To Pick

During the active growing season, it’s okay to take up to 2/3 of the new growth each time you harvest.
At the end of the growing season (early October here in southern New England), go ahead and harvest as much as you want!

Move on to see: How to Make Mint Tea

Go to: DIY Mint Tea: How to Grow, Brew & Enjoy!

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Mint is one of the most popular herbs. There are many mints for the gardener and cook to choose from: spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, pennyroyal, lemon mint, pineapple mint, and ginger mint to name a few. Cooks prefer spearmint for most savory dishes; it’s less overpowering than other mints such as peppermint which is very strong flavored with a strong menthol aroma. Mint leaves are used in teas, cold drinks, salads, and vegetables, and, of course, mint is a favorite served with peas and lamb.

Get to Know Mint

  • Botanical name and family: Mentha species. There are many varieties of mint. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and spearmint ( Mentha spicata) are the best known. See other mint varieties below. All are members of the Lamiaceae—mint family.
  • Origin: Europe
  • Type of plant: Herbaceous perennial
  • Growing season: Summer
  • Growing zones: Zones 5 to 9
  • Hardiness: Mint is cold hardy to -20°F and easily withstands frost. Mint can be grown in cold winter climates but it is best over-wintered in a sheltered place or indoors. Mint can tolerate high humidity.
  • Plant form and size: Mint generally grows upright 1 to 3 feet tall, though a few grow much shorter. Mint stems easily root when they touch the ground so mint can be invasive.
  • Flowers: Whorls of small white, lavender, or purple blossoms on terminal spikes.
  • Bloom time: Bloom mid-summer to fall.
  • Leaves: Dark green, creased, round to oval leaves pointed at the tips grow opposite one another on four-sided stems.

How to Plant Mint

  • Best location: Plant mint in filtered shade or partial shade; mint will tolerate full sun but it’s best to avoid hot, direct sun.
  • Soil preparation: Mint grows best in loamy and moist but well-drained soil. Do not add too much aged compost or aged manure to the area where mint grows; high fertility can leave mint susceptible to rust. Mint prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
  • Seed starting indoors: Start mint from seed indoors in spring 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Mint seed can be slow to germinate. Start mint in flats under fluorescent lights. Note: mint seed does not always grow true to the parent. Sowing store-bought seed will ensure you grow the variety you want.
  • Transplanting to the garden: Set mint seedlings in the garden two or more weeks after the last frost in spring. Grow mint from divisions or cuttings started in cool weather, spring or fall. You can also plant store-bought seedlings in spring or fall.
  • Outdoor planting time: Sow seed outdoors in early spring. Plants started from division or layering can be planted in the garden from spring to fall.
  • Planting depth: Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep. Grow mint in bottomless containers set into the ground; this will keep roots and stems from running into other parts of the garden.
  • Spacing: Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart or more; mint spreads quickly.
  • How much to plant: Plant one or two mints for cooking. Grow 8 to 12 plants for tea and preserving. A variety of mints can be grown in separate containers.
  • Companion planting: Plant mint with asparagus, carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, parsley, peppers, and tomatoes. Do not plant mint in the same container as other herbs; it can choke out other plants. The sharp fragrance of mint repels insect pests; the flowers attract beneficial insects. Mint is said to improve the vigor and flavor of cabbage and tomatoes. Unchecked mint can be very invasive; plant it in pots and set the pots near the plants you want to protect. Place saucers beneath the pots so the roots do no escape.

How to Grow Mint

  • Watering: Water mint regularly and evenly. Mint prefers moist soil. If grown in dry soil mint will spread less rapidly.
  • Feeding: Feed mint at planting time and again in mid-summer with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion. Top-dress mint with an inch or more of compost or well-rotted manure in fall.
  • Care: Mint can be invasive; it spreads rapidly by shallow, underground runners. Contain mint within metal strips set 10 inches into the soil or bottomless containers 10-inches deep sunk into the ground. Dig out old plants after five years and start anew.
  • Pruning: Keep mint pinched back for fuller growth; prune back the top half of the plant in late spring and mid-summer. Cut woody stems back to encourage succulent growth. Avoid letting flowers bloom; flowering will decrease the oil content of leaves. Removing flowers will also prevent cross-pollination. Thin clumps for good air circulation to prevent root and foliage disease. Cut back and replant mints every two to three years. If not cut back, mint can become woody.
  • Container growing: Mint can be container grown as an annual. Choose a container at least 8 to 10 inches deep. Divide and repot container-grown mints every year to keep them healthy.
  • Winter growing: Cut mint back to the ground in late autumn and put mulch on top to protect crowns and roots from winter cold.

Troubleshooting Mint

  • Pests: Aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can attack mint; spray these away with a strong blast of water or spray them with insecticidal soap.
  • Diseases: Mints are susceptible to verticillium wilt, mildew, and mint rust. Avoid overhead watering which can leave plants susceptible to fungal diseases. Remove diseased or dead stems and leaves form the bed before winter. Replant the roots in a different spot. Mint rust is a fungal disease—the lower leaves will be speckled with orange; destroy the infected leaves and replant the roots in another spot.

How to Harvest Mint

  • When to harvest: Pick mint leaves and sprigs as you need them throughout the growing season. Cut away flower stalks before they bloom for a sweeter taste. Cut the entire plant down to 2 or 3 inches above the soil at midseason and it will regrow for a second harvest.
  • How to harvest: Use a snip or scissors to cut off the top leaves and tips of branches or pinch off individual leaves for fresh use. For drying, cut stems 4 to 6 inches above the soil surface.

Mint in the Kitchen

  • Flavor and aroma: Mint has a sweet, slightly hot flavor, and a cool aftertaste. Mint has a strong menthol aroma.
  • Leaves: Add freshly chopped mint leaves to leafy green salads, fruit salads, or pasta salads.
  • Add mint to cooked peas, steamed potatoes, and carrots. Add a tablespoon of minced mint to cooked rice just before serving. Add mint to veal, eggplant, beans, fruit salads, beverages, creamy vegetables, soups, and sauces. Serve mint leaves with peas and lamb. Use leaves to flavor drinks, jellies, candy, chocolate, and desserts. Add spearmint to steamed carrots or new potatoes. Add apple mint and pineapple mint to drinks, fruit salads, cottage cheese, and cream cheeses.
  • Teas: Use mint to flavor teas. Add a sprig of mint to a pitcher of lemonade to create a refreshing drink
  • Culinary companions: Mint is a complement to cilantro, lemon verbena, oregano, and rosemary. Mint will complement the flavors of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes.

Preserving and Storing Mint

  • Refrigeration: Wrap mint in a damp paper towel and store it in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for two or three days.
  • Drying: Dry stems upside down in a warm, shady place; let stems dry for 2 to 5 days then strip dried leaves to be stored in an airtight jar. Leaves also can be dried in a dehydrator. Mint holds its fragrance and flavor when dried.
  • Freezing: Freeze mint leaves in a plastic bag. Freeze leaves in ice cubes for later use. Freeze 6 to 8-inch sprigs. Crumble frozen mint into cookie dough for minty cookies.
  • Storing: Store dried mint leaves in an airtight jar.

Propagating Mint

  • Seed: Mint seed does not always grow true to its parent. Cuttings, division, and layering are better propagation alternatives.
  • Cuttings: Root stem cutting in water. You can also cut a runner into sections several inches long then place the cuttings in moist, sterile growers mix and set in a sunny spot to root.
  • Division: Divide plants and roots by slicing the plant or roots in half with a spade. Get new divisions started in cool, not hot weather.
  • Layering: Cover the nodes of runners (stolons) with soil to root new plants. Rooted runners are easy to divide and plant separately.

Mint Varieties to Grow

There are more than 600 species and cultivars of mint; here are popular cultivars:

  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata): dark green toothed leaves are slightly smaller than those of peppermint with a crinkly look and feel; the plant grows to 2 feet high; use fresh or dried to flavor food. This is the most popular mint for culinary use.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita): the plant grows to 3 feet high and has strongly scented dark green toothed and pointed leaves to 3 inches long with purple flowers. Leaves give a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat; use to flavor sweets.
  • Apple mint (M. suaveolens): stiff stems that grow 20 to 30 inches high; round, green-gray leaves 1 to 4 inches long are slightly hairy; purplish-white flowers on 3-inch spikes.
  • Corsican mint (M. requienii): a small creeping plant that grows about 1 inch high; round leaves are slightly hairy and gray-green, about 1 to 4 inches long; purple-white flowers
  • Chocolate mint (M. x piperita ‘Chocolate’): this mint has a chocolate flavor.
  • Curly mint (
  • M. spicata ‘Crispata’): this is a low growing groundcover that is quite aromatic.
  • Ginger mint (M. x gentilis ‘Variegata’): a hint of ginger to mint flavor.
  • Golden apple mint (M.x gracilis): smooth, deep green leaves variegated with yellow; the plant grows to 2 feet tall; use leaves to flavor foods.
  • Horsemint ( M.longifolia): oval, hairy leaves; aromatic.
  • Japanese mint ( arvensis piperescens): dark green leaves.
  • Lemon mint (M. x piperita citrata): fresh lemony scent.
  • Orange bergamot mint (M. x citrata): grows to about 2 feet tall and wide and has dark green, 2-inch leaves that are edged with purple; they taste and smell slightly or oranges; flowers are lavender growing in dense spikes.
  • Pennyroyal (M. pulegium): low grower with downy, oval leaves that are not more than ½ inch long; small, rosy lilac flowers bloom in late summer and fall; leaves can be toxic in large amounts.
  • Pineapple mint (M. suaveolens ‘Variegata’): pineapple fragrance when young.
  • Water mint ( aquatic): round to oval leaves; strop peppermint fragrance.

More tips at How to Start an Herb Garden and Growing Herbs for Cooking

Also of interest:

How to Grow Basil

How to Grow Thyme

How to Grow Sage

How to Grow Oregano

Trimming Mint Plants: How And When to Prune Mint

Pruning mint is a pleasant task, as the plants release a new burst of minty fragrance with each cut you make. You have two objectives when pruning the plant: to keep the bed healthy and to prevent it from flowering and going to seed. Flowering reduces the quality and potency of the leaves. Read on to find out when and how to prune mint plants.

Never be afraid to pinch a few sprigs of mint when you need them, but if you need a large quantity of mint, wait until pruning time. If you want a low-growing bed of mint, you can keep it as short as 4 inches. This is a good height for mint grown in small containers. Otherwise, let it grow 8 to 12 inches tall before you prune it.

When to Prune Mint

You can sometimes get a light harvest from mint during the first year, but it’s generally best to wait until the second year, just before the plants bloom. After mint blooms, it loses some of its essential oil, making the leaves less fragrant and flavorful. Watch for the buds that indicate when the plant is about to bloom. Once buds appear, you can pinch them or cut back the plants. During the second year, you can cut the plants back two or three times.

Trimming mint plants to the ground before winter is an essential part of preventing insect pests and diseases, such as anthracnose, that would otherwise overwinter in the plants.

How to Prune Mint

If you’re pruning mint during the growing season, cut the plants back by about half. This will remove the tips of the plant where the flowers would otherwise bloom and provide plenty of mint for fresh use, freezing or drying.

When you perform mint plant pruning at the end of the year or end of season, cut them to within an inch of the ground. If you have a large bed, you can use a lawn mower.

Can I still use the mint leaves after the plant has flowered?

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Mint

mintOverview of mint.Contunico © ZDF Enterprises GmbH, MainzSee all videos for this article

Mint, (genus Mentha), genus of 25 species of fragrant herbs of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Native to Eurasia, North America, southern Africa, and Australia, mints are widely distributed throughout the temperate areas of the world and have naturalized in many places. A number of species, particularly peppermint and spearmint, are used as flavourings for foods (including candy and gum) and for liqueur and dentifrices. The essential oils of mints are used as scents in perfumery. Some species are commonly used in herbal medicine.

water mintWater mint (Mentha aquatica).Taka

Mints have square stems and opposite aromatic leaves. Many can spread vegetatively by stolons and can be aggressive in gardens. The small flowers are usually pale purple, pink, or white in colour and are arranged in clusters, either forming whorls or crowded together in a terminal spike. The flowers are not typical of other members of the family, having four rather than five united petals. The volatile oils are contained in resinous dots in the leaves and stems.

Wild mint (Mentha arvensis).G.E. Hyde—NHPA/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) grows to about 90 cm (3 feet) high, with open spikes of pink or lilac flowers and stalkless leaves; it has the characteristic mint fragrance. Peppermint (M. × piperita), a hybrid between spearmint and water mint, has a heavy scent, stalked leaves, and reddish lilac flowers in dense spikes. Water mint (M. aquatica) commonly grows in ditches and has rounded flower spikes and stalked hairy leaves. Wild mint (M. arvensis), native in North America and Eurasia, reaches about 1 metre (about 3.3 feet) high. Pennyroyal, M. pulegium, has small oval obtuse leaves and flowers in axillary whorls; it is remarkable for its creeping habit and pungent odour. It has been used in folk medicine to induce perspiration and menstruation.

peppermintPeppermint (Mentha × piperita).© Gul Kocher/Fotolia

Other members of the family Lamiaceae are also known as mints: the bergamots, or bee balms (genus Monarda), are sometimes called horsemint; members of the genus Pycnanthemum are called mountain mints; catnip (Nepeta cataria) is also known as catmint; dittany (Cunila origanoides) is called stonemint; and plants of the Australian genus Prostanthera are called mint bushes.

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How to Make Mint Tea

DIRECTIONS on How to Dry Mint Leaves for Mint Tea! These DIY How to Make Mint Tea instructions shows how easy it is to dry mint leaves so you can make your own homemade peppermint tea. I store this dried mint tea for months so I can enjoy the health benefits year round!

I start everyday with a cup of tea. Do you?

It can be warm or cold, it doesn’t really matter. Most green and black teas have enough caffeine for that morning boost. My morning always starts with a yawn. Then I waddle out of the bedroom with my comfiest bed shirt on and make myself a cup of tea.

I then continue to have a few cups of tea throughout the day. The kind of tea depends on the season and my mood. In Winter I might start with English Breakfast or Earl Grey. In the Spring it’s all about Green Jasmine. A nice spiced tea is great for autumn.

Homemade Mint Tea

But the Summer is dedicated to Mint tea. And drying mint is so easy!

Mint tea can be enjoyed throughout the day. It’s not uncommon for me to make a cup while I’m making dinner to start to calm down for the day. It’s also not uncommon for me to make a cup of this in the afternoon when it’s “go time” with work but I need to stay sane.

It has no caffeine but is naturally invigorating due to it’s flavor and natural “chill” from the menthol, making it perfect for a good start in the morning or an afternoon pick-me-up. This lack of caffeine also makes it perfect for an evening or pre-bedtime tea. It’s also great for after meals to aid digestion. It helps to sooth upset tummies and calm nausea as well. Mint tea also helps many pregnant women, especially helping with morning sickness during the first trimester (here’s my peppermint tea recipe).

It’s garden season so if you have a herb or vegetable garden chances are you might be growing mint. Mint is one of those plants that have a life of their own when it comes to growing all over.

It’s technically a weed, so it can easily take over entire gardens or yards if not contained. But it is easy to get plenty of it! It’s best to keep it in its own area or a container to prevent it from taking over, but it can be managed in a garden plot. If you plan on making a lot of tea just keep trimming and drying your expanding plant.

How to Dry Mint

I found 2 mint plants recently that somehow survived our brutal winter and were happily growing and getting ready for Summer. Mint is a hardy plant!

Is there anything sweeter then the smell of when you touch of your fingers on fresh mint? Mmmm. Mint can be easily dried to use for tea leaves. There’s really nothing to it.

Many people hang their mint to dry but I’m both inpatient and sometimes out of space. With this method below you’ll solve all that as your mint will be ready in 2-3 hours. It will also show you how to do so without burning it up, as sometimes happens if you rush it.

Have fun drying your mint and enjoy that next cup of tea! Make sure to serve with some tea sugar cookies!

How to Dry Mint Leaves


Before with fresh mint and your dried mint after.

It’s as simple as spreading a layer of fresh mint on a cookie sheet.

Set the oven on a low enough temp and let it sit for 2-3 hours.

Crumble it up and store it in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Use a teaspoon in hot water for a single cup.

And now you know how to make peppermint tea! Enjoy!

Looking for more mint recipes? Try my Cast Iron Chicken with Mint Chutney!
Looking for more tea recipes? Try my Cucumber Peppermint Tea and a list of Pregnancy Teas!

If you try this Mint Tea recipe, please leave a comment or share it on Instagram with tag #brooklynfarmgirl – I’m always looking for photos to feature and share!

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5 from 1 vote DIRECTIONS on How to Dry Mint Leaves for Mint Tea! These DIY How to Make Mint Tea instructions shows how easy it is to dry mint leaves so you can make your own homemade mint tea. I store this dried mint tea for months so I can enjoy the health benefits year round! Prep Time: 1 minute Cook Time: 3 minutes Total Time 4 minutes serves 12

Ingredients

  • Fresh Mint

Instructions

  • Pick mint, clean if needed. If cleaning, make sure to dry mint completely.
  • Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
  • Put mint in one layer on cookie sheet.
  • Bake mint for 2-3 hours. Check at the 2 hour mark to see if mint is completely dry. If not, check every 15 minutes.
  • Once out of the oven take mint and crumble leaves into a container.
  • Store in jar, preferably in a dry dark cabinet shelf.
  • When using for tea, use one teaspoon of dried mint leaves and steep for 3 minutes in hot water.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 1kcal Course:Drinks Cuisine:American Keyword:how to dry mint Did you make this?I love seeing what you’ve made! Tag me on Instagram at @BrooklynFarmGirl and don’t forget to leave a comment & rating below.

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